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From an Engraving by T. Cooke. 











THE bulk of the introductory matter requisite to an understand- 
ing of Berkeley's Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Phi- 
lonous has already been given in the Preface to his Principles of 
Human Knowledge (No. 48 of the Religion of Science Library), 
which is supposed to be in the hands of the reader, and to which 
he is referred. It remains for us in this place simply to supply a 
few general characterisations and to refer again to Berkeley's re- 


lations to Hume and to modern psychology. We also take advan- 
tage of this opportunity to reproduce two illustrations of Berkeley's 
Rhode Island home, which will impart a human interest to our 
little work, and bring it nearer to our American readers. It was 
in Rhode Island that Alcifhron was composed, dialogues "better 
fitted than any in our language to enable the English reader to 
realise the charm of Cicero and Plato. ... In Rhode Island, Ber- 



keley was accustomed to study in an alcove among the rocks on 
that magnificent coast, in a region where he had exchanged the 
society of the philosophers and men of letters of London and Paris 
for a solitude occasionally broken by the unsophisticated mission- 
aries of the New England plantations, who travelled great dis- 
tances to converse with him." 1 

The Three Dialogues Between ffylas and Philonous, which 
were first published in London, in 1713, 2 have been styled by Pro- 

In this alcove parts of Alciphron are said to have been composed. 

fessor Fraser "the gem of British metaphysical literature." He 
says : ' ' Berkeley's claim to be the great modern master of Socratic 

1 Quoted from Prof. A. Campbell Eraser's The Works of George Berkeley, 
four volumes, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1871. The illustrations of Berkeley's 
Rhode Island home here reproduced have also been taken from this admir- 
able and careful work, .which is the authoritative and definitive edition of 
Berkeley's writings, and to which the reader is referred for an exhaustive 
study of Berkeley's philosophy and life. 

S A second edition appeared in 1725 ; a third, with additions in 1734. This 
was the last in the author's life-time. 


dialogue rests, indeed, upon Alcifhron, which surpasses the con- 
versations between Hylas and Philonous in expression of individ- 
ual character, and in general dramatic effect. Here the conversa- 
tional form is adopted merely as a convenient way of treating the 
chief objections to the theory of Matter which is contained in the 
Principles of Human Knowledge. But the clearness of thought 
and language, the occasional coloring of fancy, and the glow of 
practical human sympathy and earnestness that pervade the subtle 
reasonings by which the fallacies of metaphysics are inexorably 
pursued through these discussions, place the following Dialogues 
almost alone in the modern metaphysical library. Among those 
who have employed the English language, except perhaps Hume 
and Ferrier, none approach Berkeley in the art of uniting deep 
metaphysical thought and ingenious speculation with an easy, 
graceful, and transparent style. Our surprise and admiration are 
increased when we recollect that this charming production of rea- 
son and imagination came from Ireland, at a time when that coun- 
try was scarcely known in the world of letters and philosophy." 

The contents of the three Dialogues, which are a popular 
presentation of the Principles, and were written in refutation of 
the objections that had been raised to the new doctrine of sensible 
as distinguished from absolute things, propounded in the earlier 
work, may be briefly summarised as follows : 

The First Dialogue aims to show the repugnancy or contra- 
dictory nature of the philosophical dogma of the absolute existence 
of a material reality or world-in-itself, independent of a perceiving 
or conceiving mind; the argument being that under no circum- 
stances can such a material world be perceived either immediately 
or mediately. The Second Dialogue seeks to show that the exist- 
ence of this metaphysical, supersensible world of matter also can- 
not be reached by inference, that is, cannot be demonstrated. The 
Third Dialogue is devoted to the refutation of objections; for 
example, that the new doctrine is skeptical ; that, with absolute 
material substance, it also implicitly disproves the existence of 
absolute spiritual substance, that is to say, of the ego ; etc., etc. 

The last-named objection, the most important of all. was an- 
swered by Berkeley in a passage inserted in the third edition (see 
page 93 et seq.), considered by Professor Fraser the most remark- 
able in the Dialogues, but in our opinion one of the weakest. 
Professor Fraser says: "It is, by anticipation, Berkeley's answer 
to Hume's application of the objections to the reality and possibil- 


ity of Absolute or Unknown Matter, to che reality and possibility 
of the Ego or Self of which we are aware through memory, as 
identical amid the changes of its ideas or successive states." 

As a fact, Berkeley's system leads logically to the conclusion 
which he seeks to controvert in this passage. Hylas truly re- 
marks : "Notwithstanding all you have said, to me it seems that, 
according to your own way of thinking, and in consequence of your 
own principles, it should follow that you are only a system of 
floating ideas, without any substance to support them. Words are 
not to be used without a meaning. And, as there is no more mean- 
ing in spiritual Substance than in material Substance, the one is 
to be exploded as well as the other." (Page 95.) 

Berkeley answers: " How often must I repeat, that I know or 
am convinced of my own being ; and that / myself am not my 
ideas, but somewhat else, a thinking, active principle that per- 
ceives, knows, wills, and operates about ideas," etc., p. 95. 

Subjectively, the force of this answer depends entirely upon 
one's personal point of view. But the fact remains that both 
Hylas and Hume have been upheld by modern scientific psychol- 
ogy 1 in their rejection of an ego-entity, and that Berkeley in his 
contention has not. Perhaps this is the only element lacking, to 
have made Berkeley's system a perfect spiritualistic theological 
monism. Nevertheless, its beauty and consistency reposed entirely 
on the arbitrary hypothesis of existence in God, on the intervention 
of a deus ex machina, and it stood in this respect on the same 
footing and met the same destiny, as Malebranche's Occasionalism 
and Leibnitz's Pre-established Harmony. 



ISee Ribot, Dittafts of Personality, Chicago, The Open Court Pub. Co. 




Hylas and PMlonous. 

The Defign of which 

Is plainly to demonftrate the Reality and 
Perfection of Humane Knowlege, the In- 
corporeal Nature of the Soul, and the Im- 
mediate Providence of a DEITY: 

In Oppofition to 



To open a METHOD for rendering the 
SCIENCES more eafy, ufeful, and 

By George Berkeley^ M. A. 
Fellow of 7r/#/Vy-College, 


Printed by G. James, for HENRY CLEMENTS, 
at the Half-Moon, in S. Paul's Church- 
yard. MDCCXIII. 









The virtue, learning, and good sense which are 
acknowledged to distinguish your character, would 
tempt me to indulge myself the pleasure men natu- 
rally take in giving applause to those whom they es- 
teem and honour: and it should seem of importance 
to the subjects of Great Britain that they knew the 
eminent share you enjoy in the favour of your sover- 
eign, and the honours she has conferred upon you, 
have not been owing to any application from your 
lordship, but entirely to her majesty's own thought, 
arising from a sense of your personal merit, and an 
inclination to reward it. But, as your name is pre- 
fixed to this treatise with an intention to do honour to 
myself alone, I shall only say that I am encouraged 
by the favour you have treated me with, to address 
these papers to your lordship. And I was the more 
ambitious of doing this, because a Philosophical Trea- 


tise could not so properly be addressed to any one as 
to a person of your lordship's character, who, to your 
other valuable distinctions, have added the knowledge 
and relish of Philosophy. 

I am, with the greatest respect, 

My Lord, 

Your lordship's most obedient and 
most humble servant, 


1 Not published in the third edition, of 1734. 


THOUGH it seems the general opinion of the 
world, no less than the design of nature and 
providence, that the end of speculation be Practice, 
or the improvement and regulation of our lives and 
actions ; yet those who are most addicted to specula- 
tive studies, seem as generally of another mind. And, 
indeed, if we consider the pains that have been taken 
to perplex the plainest things that distrust of the 
senses, those doubts and scruples, those abstractions 
and refinements that occur in the very entrance of the 
sciences ; it will not seem strange that men of leisure 
and curiosity should lay themselves out in fruitless 
disquisitions, without descending to the practical 
parts of life, or informing themselves in the more ne- 
cessary and important parts of knowledge. 

Upon the common principles of philosophers, we 
are not assured of the existence of things from their 
being perceived. And we are taught to distinguish 
their real nature from that which falls under our sen- 
ses. Hence arises Scepticism and Paradoxes. It is 
not enough that we see and feel, that we taste and 
smell a thing : its true nature, its absolute external 
entity, is still concealed. For, though it be the fic- 
tion of our own brain, we have made it inaccessible 
to all our faculties. Sense is fallacious, reason defec- 

IThis Preface was omitted by the author in the edition of 1734. 


tive. We spend our lives in doubting of those things 
which other men evidently know, and believing those 
things which they laugh at and despise. 

In order, therefore, to divert the busy mind of 
man from vain researches, it seemed necessary to in- 
quire into the source of its perplexities ; and, if pos- 
sible, to lay down such Principles as, by an easy so- 
lution of them, together with their own native evi- 
dence, may at once recommend themselves for genuine 
to the mind, and rescue it from those endless pursuits 
it is engaged in. Which with a plain demonstration 
of the Immediate Providence of an all-seeing God, 
and the natural Immortality of the soul, should seem 
the readiest preparation, as well as the strongest mo- 
tive, to the study and practice of virtue. 

This design I proposed in the First Part of a trea- 
tise concerning Principles of Human Knowledge, pub- 
lished in the year 1710. But, before I proceed to 
publish the Second Part, I thought it requisite to 
treat more clearly and fully of certain Principles laid 
down in the First, and to place them in a new light. 
Which is the business of the following Dialogues. 

In this treatise, which does not presuppose in the 
reader any knowledge of what was contained in the 
former, it has been my aim to introduce the notions I 
advance into the mind in the most easy and familiar 
manner ; especially because they carry with them a 
great opposition to the prejudices of philosophers, 
which have so far prevailed against the common sense 
and natural notions of mankind. 

If the principles which I here endeavour to propa- 
gate are admitted for true, the consequences which, I 
think, evidently flow from thence are, that Atheism 
and Scepticism will be utterly destroyed, many intri- 


cate points made plain, great difficulties solved, sev- 
eral useless parts of science retrenched, speculation 
referred to practice, and men reduced from paradoxes 
to common sense. 

And, although it may, perhaps, seem an uneasy 
reflexion to some that, when they have taken a circuit 
through so many refined and unvulgar notions, they 
should at last come to think like other men ; yet, me- 
thinks, this return to the simple dictates of nature, 
after having wandered through the wild mazes of phi- 
losophy, is not unpleasant. It is like coming home 
from a long voyage : a man reflects with pleasure on 
the many difficulties and perplexities he has passed 
through, sets his heart at ease, and enjoys himself 
with more satisfaction for the future. 

As it was my intention to convince Sceptics and 
Infidels by reason, so it has been my endeavour 
strictly to observe the most rigid laws of reasoning. 
And, to an impartial reader, I hope it will be mani- 
fest that the sublime notion of a God, and the com- 
fortable expectation of Immortality, do naturally arise 
from a close and methodical application of thought 
whatever may be the result of that loose, rambling 
way, not altogether improperly termed Free-thinking, 
by certain libertines in thought, who can no more en- 
dure the restraints of logic than those of religion or 

It will perhaps be objected to my design that, so 
far as it tends to ease the mind of difficult and useless 
inquiries, it can affect only a few speculative persons ; 
but, if by their speculations rightly placed, the study 
of morality and the law of nature were brought more 
into fashion among men of parts and genius, the dis- 
couragements that draw to Scepticism removed, the 


measures of right and wrong accurately denned, and 
the principles of Natural Religion reduced into regu- 
lar systems, as artfully disposed and clearly connected 
as those of some other sciences : there are grounds to 
think these effects would not only have a gradual in- 
fluence in repairing the too much defaced sense of 
virtue in the world ; but also, by showing that such 
parts of revelation as lie within the reach of human 
inquiry are most agreeable to right reason, would dis- 
pose all prudent, unprejudiced persons to a modest 
and wary treatment of those sacred mysteries which 
are above the comprehension of our faculties. 

It remains that I desire the reader to withhold his 
censure of these Dialogues till he has read them 
through. Otherwise he may lay them aside, in a mis- 
take of their design, or on account of difficulties or 
objections which he would find answered in the sequel. 
A treatise of this nature would require to be once 
read over coherently, in order to comprehend its de- 
sign, the proofs, solution of difficulties, and the con- 
nexion and disposition of its parts. If it be thought 
to deserve a second reading, this, I imagine, will 
make the entire scheme very plain ; especially if re- 
course be had to an Essay I wrote some years since 
upon Vision, and the Treatise concerning the Prin- 
ciples of Human Knowledge wherein divers notions 
advanced in these Dialogues are farther pursued, or 
placed in different lights, and other points handled 
which naturally tend to confirm and illustrate them. 





GOOD morning, Hylas : I did not expect to find 
you abroad so early. 

HyL It is indeed something unusual; but my 
thoughts were so taken up with a subject I was dis- 
coursing of last night, that finding I could not sleep, 
I resolved to rise and take a turn in the garden. 

Phil. It happened well, to let you see what inno- 
cent and agreeable pleasures you lose every morning. 
Can there be a pleasanter time of the day, or a more 
delightful season of the year? That purple sky, those 
wild but sweet notes of birds, the fragrant bloom upon 
the trees and flowers, the gentle influence of the rising 
sun, these and a thousand nameless beauties of nature 
inspire the soul with secret transports ; its faculties 
too being at this time fresh and lively, are fit for these 
meditations, which the solitude of a garden and tran. 
quillity of the morning naturally dispose us to. But 
I am afraid I interrupt your thoughts : for you seemed 
very intent on something. 

HyL It is true, I was, and shall be obliged to you 
if you will permit me to go on in the same vein ; not 


that I would by any means deprive myself of your 
company, for my thoughts always flow more easily in 
conversation with a friend, than when I am alone : 
but my request is, that you would suffer me to impart 
my reflexions to you. 

Phil. With all my heart, it is what I should have 
requested myself if you had not prevented me. 

Hyl. I was considering the old fate of those men 
who have in all ages, through an affectation of being 
distinguished from the vulgar, or some unaccountable 
turn of thought, pretended either to believe nothing 
at all, or to believe the most extravagant things in 
the world. This however might be borne, if their 
paradoxes and scepticism did not draw after them 
some consequences of general disadvantage to man- 
kind. But the mischief lieth here ; that when men of 
less leisure see them who are supposed to have spent 
their whole time in the pursuits of knowledge pro- 
fessing an entire ignorance of all things, or advancing 
such notions as are repugnant to plain and commonly 
received principles, they will be tempted to entertain 
suspicions concerning the most important truths, which 
they had hitherto held sacred and unquestionable. 

Phil. I entirely agree with you, as to the ill ten- 
dency of the affected doubts of some philosophers, 
and fantastical conceits of others. I am even so far 
gone of late in this way of thinking, that I have quitted 
several of the sublime notions I had got in their 
schools for vulgar opinions. And I give it you on my 
word, since this revolt from metaphysical notions, to 
the plain dictates of nature and common sense, I find 
my understanding strangely enlightened, so that I can 
now easily comprehend a great many things which 
before were all mystery and riddle. 


Hyl. I am glad to find there was nothing in the 
accounts I heard of you. 

Phil. Pray, what were those? 

Hyl. You were represented in last night's conver- 
sation, as one who maintained the most extravagant 
opinion that ever entered into the mind of man, to 
wit, that there is no such thing as material substance 
in the world. 

Phil. That there is no such thing as what Philos- 
ophers call material substance, I am seriously per- 
suaded : but, if I were made to see anything absurd 
or sceptical in this, I should then have the same rea- 
son to renounce this that I imagine I have now to re- 
ject the contrary opinion. 

Hyl. What ! can anything be more fantastical, 
more repugnant to common sense, or a more manifest 
piece of Scepticism, than to believe there is no such 
thing as matter? 

Phil. Softly, good Hylas. What if it should prove, 
that you, who hold there is, are, by virtue of that 
opinion, a greater sceptic, and maintain more para- 
doxes and repugnances to common sense, than I who 
believe no such thing? 

Hyl. You may as soon persuade me, the part is 
greater than the whole, as that, in order to avoid ab- 
surdity and Scepticism, I should ever be obliged to 
give up my opinion in this point. 

Phil. Well then, are you content to admit that 
opinion for true, which, upon examination, shall ap- 
pear most agreeable to common sense, and remote 
from Scepticism? 

Hyl. With all my heart. Since you are for raising 
disputes about the plainest things in nature, I am 
content for once to hear what you have to say. 


Phil. Pray, Hylas, what do you mean by a sceptic? 

Hyl. I mean what all men mean, one that doubts 
of everything. 

Phil. He then who entertains no doubt concerning 
some particular point, with regard to that point can- 
not be thought a sceptic. 

Hyl. I agree with you. 

Phil. Whether doth doubting consist in embracing 
the affirmative or negative side of a question? 

Hyl. In neither ; for whoever understands English 
cannot but know that doubting signifies a suspense be- 
tween both. 

Phil. He then that denieth any point, can no more 
be said to doubt of it, than he who affirmeth it with 
the same degree of assurance. 

Hyl. True. 

Phil. And, consequently, for such his denial is no 
more to be esteemed a sceptic than the other. 

Hyl. I acknowledge it. 

Phil. How cometh it to pass then, Hylas, that you 
pronounce me a sceptic, because I deny what you 
affirm, to wit, the existence of Matter? Since, for 
aught you can tell, I am as peremptory in my denial, 
as you in your affirmation. 

Hyl. Hold, Philonous, I have been a little out in 
my definition ; but every false step a man makes in 
discourse is not to be insisted on. I said indeed that 
a sceptic was one who doubted of everything ; but I 
should have added, or who denies the reality and 
truth of things. 

Phil. What things? Do you mean the principles 
and theorems of sciences? But these you know are 
universal intellectual notions, and consequently inde- 


pendent of Matter ; the denial therefore of this doth 
not imply the denying them. 

Hyl. I grant it. But are there no other things? 
What think you of distrusting the senses, of denying 
the real existence of sensible things, or pretending to 
know nothing of them. Is not this sufficient to de- 
nominate a man a sceptic? 

Phil. Shall we therefore examine which of us it is 
that denies the reality of sensible things, or professes 
the greatest ignorance of them ; since, if I take you 
rightly, he is to be esteemed the greatest sceptic? 

Hyl. That is what I desire. 

Phil. What mean you by Sensible Things? 

Hyl. Those things which are perceived by the 
senses. Can you imagine that I mean anything else? 

Phil. Pardon me, Hylas, if I am desirous clearly 
to apprehend your notions, since this may much 
shorten our inquiry. Suffer me then to ask you this 
farther question. Are those things only perceived by 
the senses which are perceived immediately? Or, 
may those things properly be said to be sensible which 
are perceived mediately, or not without the interven- 
tion of others? 

Hyl. I do not sufficiently understand you. 

Phil. In reading a book, what I immediately per- 
ceive are the letters, but mediately, or by means of 
these, are suggested to my mind the notions of God, 
virtue, truth, &c. Now, that the letters are truly 
, sensible things, or perceived by sense, there is no 
doubt : but I would know whether you take the things 
suggested by them to be so too. 

Hyl. No, certainly; it were absurd to think God or 
virtue sensible things, though they may be signified 


and suggested to the mind by sensible marks, with 
which they have an arbitrary connexion. 

Phil. It seems then, that by sensible things you 
mean those only which can be perceived immediately 
by sense? 

Hyl. Right. 

Phil. Doth it not follow from this, that though I see 
one part of the sky red, and another blue, and that 
my reason doth thence evidently conclude there must 
be some cause of that diversity of colours, yet that 
cause cannot be said to be a sensible thing, or per- 
ceived by the sense of seeing? 

Hyl. It doth. 

Phil. In like manner, though I hear variety of 
sounds, yet I cannot be said to hear the causes of 
those sounds? 

Hyl. You cannot. 

Phil. And when by my touch I perceive a thing to 
be hot and heavy, I cannot say, with any truth or pro- 
priety, that I feel the cause of its heat or weight? 

Hyl. To prevent any more questions of this kind, 
I tell you once for all, that by sensible things I mean 
those only which are perceived by sense, and that in 
truth the senses perceive nothing which they do not 
perceive immediately: for they make no inferences. 
The deducing therefore of causes or occasions from 
effects and appearances, w*hich alone are perceived 
by sense, entirely relates to reason. 

Phil. This point then is agreed between us that 
sensible things are those only which are immediately per- 
ceived by sense. You will farther inform me, whether 
we immediately perceive by sight anything beside 
light, and colours, and figures ; or by hearing, any- 
thing but sounds ; by the palate, anything beside 


tastes ; by the smell, beside odours ; or by the touch, 
more than tangible qualities. 

Hyl. We do not. 

Phil. It seems, therefore, that if you take away all 
sensible qualities, there remains nothing sensible? 

Hyl. I grant it. 

Phil. Sensible things therefore are nothing else but 
so many sensible qualities, or combinations of sensible 

Hyl. Nothing else. 

Phil. Heat is then a sensible thing? 

Hyl. Certainly. 

Phil. Doth the reality of sensible things consist in 
being perceived? or, is it something distinct from 
their being perceived, and that bears no relation to 
the mind? 

Hyl. To exist is one thing, and to be perceived is 

Phil. I speak with regard to sensible things only : 
and of these I ask, whether by their real existence you 
mean a subsistence exterior to the mind, and distinct 
from their being perceived? 

Hyl. I mean a real absolute being, distinct from, 
and without any relation to their being perceived. 

Phil. Heat therefore, if it be allowed a real being, 
must exist without the mind? 

Hyl. It must. 

Phil. Tell me, Hylas, is this real existence equally 
compatible to all degrees of heat, which we perceive ; 
or is there any reason why we should attribute it to 
some, and deny it to others? and if there be, pray let 
me know that reason. 

Hyl. Whatever degree of heat we perceive by 


sense, we may be sure the same exists in the object 
that occasions it. 

Phil. What ! the greatest as well as the least? 

Hyl. I tell you, the reason is plainly the same in 
respect of both : they are both perceived by sense ; 
nay, the greater degree of heat is more sensibly per- 
ceived ; and consequently, if there is any difference, 
we are more certain of its real existence than we can 
be of the reality of a lesser degree. 

Phil. But is not the most vehement and intense 
degree of heat a very great pain? 

Hyl. No one can deny it. 

Phil. And is any unperceiving thing capable of 
pain or pleasure? 

Hyl. No certainly. 

Phil. Is your material substance a senseless being, 
or a being endowed with sense and perception? 

Hyl. It is senseless without doubt. 

Phil. It cannot therefore be the subject of pain? 

Hyl. By no means. 

Phil. Nor consequently of the greatest heat per- 
ceived by sense, since you acknowledge this to be no 
small pain? 

Hyl. I grant it. 

Phil. What shall we say then of your external ob- 
ject ; is it a material Substance, or no? 

Hyl. It is a material substance with the sensible 
qualities inhering in it. 

Phil. How then can a great heat exist in it, since 
you own it cannot in a material substance? I desire 
you would clear this point. 

Hyl. Hold, Philonous, I fear I was out in yielding 
intense heat to be a pain. It should seem rather, 


that pain is something distinct from heat, and the 
consequence or effect of it. 

Phil. Upon putting your hand near the fire, do 
you perceive one simple uniform sensation, or two 
distinct sensations? 

Hyl, But one simple sensation. 

Phil. Is not the heat immediately perceived? 

Hyl. It is. 

Phil. And the pain? 

Hyl. True. 

Phil. Seeing therefore they are both immediately 
perceived at the same time, and the fire affects you 
only with one simple, or uncompounded idea, it fol- 
lows that this same simple idea is both the intense 
heat immediately perceived, and the pain ; and, con- 
sequently, that the intense heat immediately per- 
ceived, is nothing distinct from a particular sort of 

Hyl. It seems so. 

Phil. Again, try in your thoughts, Hylas, if you 
can conceive a vehement sensation to be without pain 
or pleasure. 

Hyl. I cannot. 

Phil. Or can you frame to yourself an idea of sen- 
sible pain or pleasure, in general, abstracted from 
every particular idea of heat, cold, tastes, smells? &c. 

Hyl. I do not find that I can. 

Phil. Doth it not therefore follow, that sensible 
pain is nothing distinct from those sensations or ideas, 
in an intense degree? 

Hyl. It is undeniable ; and, to speak the truth, I 
begin to suspect a very great heat cannot exist but in 
a mind perceiving it. 


Phil. What! are you then in that sceptical state of 
suspense, between affirming and denying? 

HyL I think I may be positive in the point. A 
very violent and painful heat cannot exist without the 

Phil. It hath not therefore, according to you, any 
real being? 

Hyl. I own it. 

Phil. Is it therefore certain, that there is no body 
in nature really hot? 

Hyl. I have not denied there is any real heat in 
bodies. I only say, there is no such thing as an in- 
tense real heat. 

Phil. But, did you not say before that all degrees 
of heat were equally real ; or, if there was any differ- 
ence, that the greater were more undoubtedly real 
than the lesser? 

Hyl. True : but it was because I did not then con- 
sider the ground there is for distinguishing between 
them, which I now plainly see. And it is this : be- 
cause intense heat is nothing else but a particular 
kind of painful sensation ; and pain cannot exist but 
in a perceiving being ; it follows that no intense heat 
can really exist in an unperceiving corporeal sub- 
stance. But this is no reason why we should deny 
heat in an inferior degree to exist in such a substance. 

Phil. But how shall we be able to discern those 
degrees of heat which exist only in the mind from 
those which exist without it? 

Hyl. That is no difficult matter. You know the 
least pain cannot exist unperceived ; whatever, there- 
fore, degree of heat is a pain exists only in the mind. 
But, as for all other degrees of heat, nothing obliges 
us to think the same of them. 


Phil. I think you granted before that no unper- 
ceiving being was capable of pleasure, any more than 
of pain. 

Hyl. I did. 

Phil. And is not warmth, or a more gentle degree 
of heat than what causes uneasiness, a pleasure? 

Hyl. What then? 

Phil. Consequently, it cannot exist without the 
mind in an unperceiving substance, or body. 

Hyl. So it seems. 

Phil. Since, therefore, as well those degrees of 
heat that are not painful, as those that are, can exist 
only in a thinking substance; may we not conclude 
that external bodies are absolutely incapable of any 
degree of heat whatsoever? 

Hyl. On second thoughts, I do not think it is so 
evident that warmth is a pleasure, as that a great de- 
gree of heat is a pain. 

Phil. I do not pretend that warmth is as great a 
pleasure as heat is a pain. But, if you grant it to be 
even a small pleasure, it serves to make good my 

Hyl. I could rather call it an indolence. It seems 
to be nothing more than a privation of both pain and 
pleasure. And that such a quality or state as this 
may agree to an unthinking substance, I hope you 
will not deny. 

Phil. If you are resolved to maintain that warmth, 
or a gentle degree of heat, is no pleasure, I know not 
how to convince you otherwise, than by appealing to 
your own sense. But what think you of cold? 

Hyl. The same that I do of heat. An intense de- 
gree of cold is a pain ; for to feel a very great cold, is 
to perceive a great uneasiness : it cannot therefore 


exist without the mind ; but a lesser degree of cold 
may, as well as a lesser degree of heat. 

Phil. Those bodies, therefore, upon whose appli- 
cation to our own, we perceive a moderate degree of 
heat, must be concluded to have a moderate degree 
of heat or warmth in them ; and those, upon whose 
application we feel a like degree of cold, must be 
thought to have cold in them. 

Hyl. They must. 

Phil. Can any doctrine be true that necessarily 
leads a man into an absurdity? 

Hyl. Without doubt it cannot. 

Phil. Is it not an absurdity to think that the same 
thing should be at the same time both cold and warm? 

Hyl. It is. 

Phil. Suppose now one of your hands hot, and 
the other cold, and that they are both at once put 
into the same vessel of water, in an intermediate 
state ; will not the water seem cold to one hand, and 
warm to the other? 

Hyl. It will. 

Phil. Ought we not therefore, by our principles, 
to conclude it is really both cold and warm at the 
same time, that is, according to your own concession, 
to believe an absurdity? 

Hyl. I confess it seems so. 

Phil. Consequently, the principles themselves are 
false, since you have granted that no true principle 
leads to an absurdity. 

Hyl. But, after all, can anything be more absurd 
than to say, there is no heat in the fire? 

Phil. To make the point still clearer ; tell me 
whether, in two cases exactly alike, we ought not to 
make the same judgment? 


Hyl. We ought. 

Phil. When a pin pricks your finger, doth it not 
rend and divide the fibres of your flesh? 

Hyl. It doth. 

Phil. And when a coal burns your finger, doth it 
any more ? 

Hyl. It doth not. 

Phil. Since, therefore, you neither judge the sen- 
sation itself occasioned by the pin, nor anything like 
it to be in the pin ; you should not, conformably to 
what you have now granted, judge the sensation oc- 
casioned by the fire, or anything like it, to be in the 

Hyl. Well, since it must be so, I am content to 
yield this point, and acknowledge that heat and cold 
are only sensations existing in our minds. But there 
still remain qualities enough to secure the reality of 
external things. 

Phil. But what will you say, Hylas, if it shall ap- 
pear that the case is the same with regard to all other 
sensible qualities, and that they can no more be sup- 
posed to exist without the mind, than heat and cold? 

Hyl. Then indeed you will have done something 
to the purpose ; but that is what I despair of seeing 

Phil. Let us examine them in order. What think 
you of tastes do they exist without the mind, or no? 

Hyl. Can any man in his senses doubt whether 
sugar is sweet, or wormwood bitter? 

Phil. Inform me, Hylas. Is a sweet taste a par- 
ticular kind of pleasure or pleasant sensation, or is it 

Hyl. It is. 


Phil. And is not bitterness some kind of uneasi- 
ness or pain ? 

Hyl. I grant it. 

'Phil. If therefore sugar and wormwood are un- 
thinking corporeal substances existing without the 
mind, how can sweetness and bitterness, that is, pleas- 
ure and pain, agree to them? 

Hyl. Hold, Philonous, I now see what it was de- 
luded me all this time. You asked whether heat and 
cold, sweetness and bitterness, were not particular 
sorts of pleasure and pain ; to which I answered sim- 
ply, that they were. Whereas I should have thus 
distinguished : those qualities, as perceived by us, 
are pleasures or pains ; but not as existing in the ex- 
ternal objects. We must not therefore conclude ab- 
solutely, that there is no heat in the fire, or sweetness 
in the sugar, but only that heat or sweetness, as per- 
ceived by us, are not in the fire or sugar. What say 
you to this? 

Phil. I say it is nothing to the purpose. Our 
discourse proceeded altogether concerning sensible 
things, which you defined to be, the things we imme- 
diately perceive by our senses. Whatever other quali- 
ties, therefore, you speak of, as distinct from these, I 
know nothing of them, neither do they at all belong 
to the point in dispute. You may, indeed, pretend to 
have discovered certain qualities which you do not 
perceive, and assert those insensible qualities exist in 
fire and sugar. But what use can be made of this to 
your present purpose, I am at a loss to conceive. Tell 
me then once more, do you acknowledge that heat 
and cold, sweetness and bitterness (meaning those 
qualities which are perceived by the senses), do not 
exist without the mind ? 


HyL I see it is to no purpose to hold out, so I give 
up the cause as to those mentioned qualities. Though 
I profess it sounds oddly, to say that sugar is not 

Phil. But, for your farther satisfaction, take this 
along with you: that which at other times seems sweet, 
shall, to a distempered palate, appear bitter. And, 
nothing can be plainer than that divers persons per- 
ceive different tastes in the same food ; since that 
which one man delights in, another abhors. And how 
could this be, if the taste was something really in- 
herent in the food? 

HyL I acknowledge I know not how. 

Phil. In the next place, odours are to be consid- 
ered. And, with regard to these, I would fain know 
whether what has been said of tastes doth not exactly 
agree to them? Are they not so many pleasing or dis- 
pleasing sensations? 

HyL They are. 

Phil. Can you then conceive it possible that they 
should exist in an unperceiving thing? 

HyL I cannot. 

Phil, Or, can you imagine that filth and ordure 
affect those brute animals that feed on them out of 
choice, with the same smells which we perceive in 

HyL By no means. 

Phil. May we not therefore conclude of smells, as 
of the other forementioned qualities, that they cannot 
exist in any but a perceiving substance or mind. 

HyL I think so. 

Phil. Then as to sounds, what must we think of 
them : are they accidents really inherent in external 
bodies, or not? 


Hyl. That they inhere not in the sonorous bodies 
is plain from hence; because a bell struck in the ex- 
hausted receiver of an air-pump sends forth no sound. 
The air, therefore, must be thought the subject of 

Phil. What reason is there for that, Hylas ? 

Hyl. Because, when any motion is raised in the 
air, we perceive a sound greater or lesser, according 
to the air's motion ; but without some motion in the 
air, we never hear any sound at all. 

Phil. And granting that we never hear a sound 
but when some motion is produced in the air, yet I 
do not see how you can infer from thence, that the 
sound itself is in the air. 

Hyl. It is this very motion in the external air that 
produces in the mind the sensation of sound. For, 
striking on the drum of the ear, it causeth a vibra- 
tion, which by the auditory nerves being communi- 
cated to the brain, the soul is thereupon affected with 
the sensation called sound. 

Phil. What ! is sound then a sensation ? 

Hyl. I tell you, as perceived by us, it is a partic- 
ular sensation in the mind. 

Phil. And can any sensation exist without the 

Hyl. No, certainly. 

Phil. How then can sound, being a sensation, ex- 
ist in the air, if by the air you mean a senseless sub- 
stance existing without the mind? 

Hyl. You must distinguish, Philonous, between 
sound as it is perceived by us, and as it is in itself; 
or (which is the same thing) between the sound we 
immediately perceive, and that which exists without 
us. The former, indeed, is a particular kind of sen- 


sation, but the latter is merely a vibrative or undula- 
tory motion in the air. 

Phil. I thought I had already obviated that dis- 
tinction, by the answer I gave when you were apply- 
ing it in a like case before. But, to say no more of 
that, are you sure then that sound is really nothing 
but motion? 

Hyl. I am. 

Phil. Whatever therefore agrees to real sound, 
may with truth be attributed to motion? 

Hyl. It may. 

Phil. It is then good sense to speak of motion as 
of a thing that is loud, sweet, acute, or grave. 

Hyl. I see you are resolved not to understand me. 
Is it not evident those accidents or modes belong 
only to sensible sound, or sound in the common ac- 
ceptation of the word, but not to sound in the real and 
philosophic sense ; which, as I just now told you, is 
nothing but a certain motion of the air? 

Phil. It seems then there are two sorts of sound 
the one vulgar, or that which is heard, the other phi- 
losophical and real? 

Hyl. Even so. 

Phil. And the latter consists in motion? 

Hyl. I told you so before. 

Phil. Tell me, Hylas, to which of the senses, think 
you, the idea of motion belongs? to the hearing? 

Hyl. No, certainly ; but to the sight and touch. 

Phil. It should follow then, 'that, according to 
you, real sounds may possibly be seen or felt, but 
never heard. 

Hyl. Look you, Philonous, you may, if you please, 
make a jest of my opinion, but that will not alter the 
truth of things. I own, indeed, the inferences you 


draw me into, sound something oddly ; but common 
language, you know, is framed by, and for the use of 
the vulgar : we must not therefore wonder, if expres- 
sions adapted to exact philosophic notions seem un- 
couth and out of the way. 

Phil. Is it come to that? I assure you, I imagine 
myself to have gained no small point, since you make 
so light of departing from common phrases and opin- 
ions ; it being a main part of our inquiry, to examine 
whose notions are widest of the common road, and 
most repugnant to the general sense of the world. 
But, can you think it no more than a philosophical 
paradox, to say that real sounds are never heard, and 
that the idea of them is obtained by some other sense? 
And is there nothing in this contrary to nature and 
the truth of things? 

Hyl. To deal ingenuously, I do not like it. And, 
after the concessions already made, I had as well 
grant that sounds too have no real being without the 

Phil. And I hope you will make no difficulty to 
acknowledge the same of colours. 

Hyl. Pardon me : the case of colours is very dif- 
ferent. Can anything be plainer than that we see 
them on the objects? 

Phil. The objects you speak of are, I suppose, 
corporeal Substances existing without the mind? 

Hyl. They are. 

Phil. And have true and real colours inhering in 

Hyl. Each visible object hath that colour which 
we see in it. 

Phil. How! is there anything visible but what we 
perceive by sight? 


Hyl. There is not. 

Phil. And, do we perceive anything by sense which 
we do not perceive immediately? 

Hyl. How often must I be obliged to repeat the 
same thing? I tell you, we do not. 

Phil. Have patience, good Hylas ; and tell me 
once more, whether there is anything immediately 
perceived by the senses, except sensible qualities. I 
know you asserted there was not ; but I would now 
be informed, whether you still persist in the same 

Hyl. I do. 

Phil. Pray, is your corporeal substance either a 
sensible quality, or made up of sensible qualities? 

Hyl. What a question that is ! who ever thought 
it was? 

Phil. My reason for asking was, because in saying, 
each visible object hath that colour which we see in it, 
you make visible objects to be corporeal substances ; 
which implies either that corporeal substances are 
sensible qualities, or else that there is something be- 
side sensible qualities perceived by sight : but, as 
this point was formerly agreed between us, and is still 
maintained by you, it is a clear consequence, that 
your corporeal substance is nothing distinct from sen- 
sible qualities. 

Hyl. You may draw as many absurd consequences 
as you please, and endeavour to perplex the plainest 
things ; but you shall never persuade me out of my 
senses. I clearly understand my own meaning. 

Phil. I wish you would make me understand it 
too. But, since you are unwilling to have your notion 
of corporeal substance examined, I shall urge that 
point no farther. Only be pleased to let me know, 


whether the same colours which we see exist in exter- 
nal bodies, or some other. 

Hyl. The very same. 

Phil. What! are then the beautiful red and purple 
we see on yonder clouds really in them? Or do you 
imagine they have in themselves any other form than 
that of a dark mist or vapour? 

Hyl. I must own, Philonous, those colours are not 
really in the clouds as they seem to be at this dis- 
tance. They are only apparent colours. 

Phil. Apparent call you them? how shall we dis- 
tinguish these apparent colours from real ? 

Hyl. Very easily. Those are to be thought ap- 
parent which, appearing only at a distance, vanish 
upon a nearer approach. 

Phil. And those, I suppose, are to be thought real 
which are discovered by the most near and exact sur- 

Hyl. Right. 

Phil. Is the nearest and exactest survey made by 
the help of a microscope, or by the naked eye? 

Hyl. By a microscope, doubtless. 

Phil. But a microscope often discovers colours in 
an object different from those perceived by the unas- 
sisted sight. And, in case we had microscopes mag- 
nifying to any assigned degree, it is certain that no 
object whatsoever, viewed through them, would ap- 
pear in the same colour which it exhibits to the naked 

Hyl. And what will you conclude from all this? 
You cannot argue that there are really and naturally 
no colours on objects : because by artificial manage- 
ments they may be altered, or made to vanish. 

Phil. I think it may evidently be concluded from 


your own concessions, that all the colours we see with 
our naked eyes are only apparent as those on the 
clouds, since they vanish upon a more close and ac- 
curate inspection which is afforded us by a micro- 
scope. Then, as to what you say by way of preven- 
tion : I ask you whether the real and natural state of 
an object is better discovered by a very sharp and 
piercing sight, or by one which is less sharp? 

Hyl. By the former without doubt. 

Phil, Is it not plain from Dioptrics that micro- 
scopes make the sight more penetrating, and repre- 
sent objects as they would appear to the eye in case 
it were naturally endowed with a most exquisite sharp- 

Hyl It is. 

Phil. Consequently the microscopical representa- 
tion is to be thought that which best sets forth the 
real nature of the thing, or what it is in itself. The 
colours, therefore, by it perceived are more genuine 
and real than those perceived otherwise. 

Hyl. I confess there is something in what you say. 

Phil. Besides, it is not only possible but manifest, 
that there actually are animals whose eyes are by na- 
ture framed to perceive those things which by reason 
of their minuteness escape our sight. What think 
you of those inconceivably small animals perceived 
by glasses? must we suppose they are all stark blind? 
Or, in case they see, can it be imagined their sight 
hath not the same use in preserving their bodies from 
injuries, which appears in that of all other animals? 
And if it hath, is it not evident they must see particles 
less than their own bodies, which will present them 
with a far different view in each object from that 
which strikes our senses? Even our own eyes do not 


always represent objects to us after the same manner. 
In the jaundice every one knows that all things seem 
yellow. Is it not therefore highly probable those ani- 
mals in whose eyes we discern a very different texture 
from that of ours, and whose bodies abound with dif- 
ferent humours, do not see the same colours in every 
object that we do? From all which, should it not 
seem to follow that all colours are equally apparent, 
and that none of those which we perceive are really 
inherent in any outward object? 

Hyl. It should. 

Phil. The point will be past all doubt, if you con- 
sider that, in case colours were real properties or 
affections inherent in external bodies, they could ad- 
mit of no alteration without some change wrought in 
the very bodies themselves : but, is it not evident 
from what hath been said that, upon the use of micro- 
scopes, upon a change happening in the humours of 
the eye, or a variation of distance, without any man- 
ner of real alteration in the thing itself, the colours of 
any object are either changed, or totally disappear ? 
Nay, all other circumstances remaining the same, 
change but the situation of some objects, and they 
shall present different colours to the eye. The same 
thing happens upon viewing an object in various de- 
grees of light. And what is more known than that 
the same bodies appear differently coloured by candle- 
light from what they do in the open day? Add to 
these the experiment of a prism which, separating the 
heterogeneous rays of light, alters the colour of any 
object, and will cause the whitest to appear of a deep 
blue or red to the naked eye. And now tell me whether 
you are still of opinion that every body hath its true 
real colour inhering in it ; and, if you think it hath, I 


would fain know farther from you, what certain dis- 
tance and position of the object, what peculiar texture 
and formation of the eye, what degree or kind of light 
is necessary for ascertaining that true colour, and dis- 
tinguishing it from apparent ones. 

Hyl. I own myself entirely satisfied, that they are 
all equally apparent, and that there is no such thing 
as colour really inhering in external bodies, but that 
it is altogether in the light. And what confirms me 
in this opinion is that in proportion to the light col- 
ours are still more or less vivid ; and if there be no 
light, then are there no colours perceived. Besides, 
allowing there are colours on external objects, yet, 
how is it possible for us to perceive them ? For no 
external body affects the mind, unless it acts first on 
our organs of sense. But the only action of bodies 
is motion ; and motion cannot be communicated other- 
wise than by impulse. A distant object therefore can- 
not act on the eye, nor consequently make itself or its 
properties perceivable to the soul. Whence it plainly 
follows that it is immediately some contiguous sub- 
stance, which, operating on the eye, occasions a per- 
ception of colours : and such is light. 

Phil. How ! is light then a substance ? 

Hyl. I tell you, Philonous, external light is noth- 
ing but a thin fluid substance, whose minute particles 
being agitated with a brisk motion, and in various 
manners reflected from the different surfaces of out- 
ward objects to the eyes, communicate different mo- 
tions to the optic nerves ; which, being propagated to 
the brain, cause therein various impressions; and 
these are attended with the sensations of red, blue, 
yellow, &c. 


Phil. It seems then the light doth no more than 
shake the optic nerves. 

Hyl. Nothing else. 

Phil. And, consequent to each particular motion 
of the nerves, the mind is affected with a sensation, 
which is some particular colour. 

Hyl. Right. 

Phil. And these sensations have no existence with- 
out the mind. 

Hyl. They have not. 

Phil. How then do you affirm that colours are in 
the light ; since by light you understand a corporeal 
substance external to the mind? 

Hyl. Light and colours, as immediately perceived 
by us, I grant cannot exist without the mind. But, 
in themselves they are only the motions and configu- 
rations of certain insensible particles of matter. 

Phil. Colours, then, in the vulgar sense, or taken 
for the immediate objects of sight, cannot agree to 
any but a perceiving substance. 

Hyl. That is what I say. 

Phil. Well then, since you give up the point as to 
those sensible qualities which are alone thought col- 
ours by all mankind beside, you may hold what you 
please with regard to those invisible ones of the phi- 
losophers. It is not my business to dispute about 
them ; only I would advise you to bethink yourself, 
whether, considering the inquiry we are upon, it be 
prudent for you to affirm the red and blue which we 
see are not real colours, but certain unknown motions ana 
figures, which no man ever did or can see, are truly so. 
Are not these shocking notions, and are not they sub- 
ject to as many ridiculous inferences, as those you 
were obliged to renounce before in the case of sounds? 


Hyl. I frankly own, Philonous, that it is in vain to 
stand out any longer. Colours, sounds, tastes, in a 
word all those termed secondary qualities, have cer- 
tainly no existence without the mind. But, by this 
acknowledgment I must not be supposed to derogate 
anything from the reality of Matter or external ob- 
jects ; seeing it is no more than several philosophers 
maintain, who nevertheless are the farthesf^imagin- 
able from denying Matter. For the clearer under- 
standing of this, you must know sensible qualities are 
by philosophers divided into primary and secondary. 
The former are Extension, Figure, Solidity, Gravity, 
Motion, and Rest. And these they hold exist really 
in bodies. The latter are those above enumerated ; 
or, briefly, all sensible qualities beside the Primary, 
which they assert are only so many sensations or ideas 
existing nowhere but in the mind. But all this, I 
doubt not, you are apprised of. For my part, I have 
been a long time sensible there was such an opinion 
current among philosophers, but was never thoroughly 
convinced of its truth until now. 

Phil. You are still then of opinion that extension 
and figures are inherent in external unthinking sub- 

Hyl. I am. 

Phil. But what if the same arguments which are 
brought against Secondary Qualities will hold good 
against these also? 

Hyl. Why then I shall be obliged to think, they 
too exist only in the mind. 

Phil. Is it your opinion the very figure and exten- 
sion which you perceive by sense exist in the outward 
object or material substance? 

Hyl. It is. 


Phil. Have all other animals as good grounds to 
think the same of the figure and extension which they 
see and feel? 

Hyl. Without doubt, if they have any thought at 

Phil. Answer me, Hylas. Think you the senses 
were bestowed upon all animals for their preservation 
and well-being in life? or were they given to men 
alone for this end ? 

Hyl. I make no question but they have the same 
use in all other animals. 

Phil. If so, is it not necessary they should be en- 
abled by them to perceive their own limbs, and those 
bodies which are capable of harming them? 

Hyl. Certainly. 

Phil. A mite therefore must be supposed to see 
his own foot, and things equal or even less than it, as 
bodies of some considerable dimension ; though at 
the same time they appear to you scarce discernible, 
or at best as so many visible points? 

Hyl. I cannot deny it. 

Phil. And to creatures less than the mite they will 
seem yet larger? 

Hyl. They will. 

Phil. Insomuch that what you can hardly discern 
will to another extremely minute animal appear as 
some huge mountain? 

Hyl. All this I grant. 

Phil. Can one and the same thing be at the same 
time in itself of different dimensions? 

Hyl. That were absurd to imagine. 

Phil. But, from what you have laid down it follows 
that both the extension by you perceived, and that 
perceived by the mite itself, as likewise all those per- 


ceived by lesser animals, are each of them the true 
extension of the mite's foot ; that is to say, by your 
own principles you are led into an absurdity. 

Hyl. There seems to be some difficulty in the 

Phil. Again, have you not acknowledged that no 
real inherent property of any object can be changed 
without some change in the thing itself? 

Hyl. I have. 

Phil. But, as we approach to or recede from an 
object, the visible extension varies, being at one dis- 
tance ten or a hundred times greater than at another. 
Doth it not therefore follow from hence likewise that 
it is not really inherent in the object ? 

Hyl. I own I am at a loss what to think. 

Phil. Your judgment will soon be determined, if 
you will venture to think as freely concerning this 
quality as you have done concerning the rest. Was 
it not admitted as a good argument, that neither heat 
nor cold was in the water, because it seemed warm to 
one hand and cold to the other? 

Hyl. It was. 

Phil. Is it not the very same reasoning to conclude 
there is no extension or figure in an object, because 
to one eye it shall seem little, smooth, and round, 
when at the same time it appears to the other, great, 
uneven, and angular? 

Hyl. The very same. But does this latter fact 
ever happen ? 

Phil. You may at any time make the experiment, 
by looking with one eye bare, and with the other 
through a microscope. 

Hyl. I know not how to maintain it, and yet I am 


loath to give up extension, I see so many odd conse- 
quences following upon such a concession. 

Phil. Odd, say you? After the concessions already 
made, I hope you will stick at nothing for its oddness. 1 
But, on the other hand, should it not seem very odd, 
if the general reasoning which includes all other sen- 
sible qualities did not also include extension? If it 
be allowed that no idea nor anything like an idea can 
exist in an unperceiving substance, then surely it fol- 
lows that no figure or mode of extension, which we 
can either perceive or imagine, or have any idea of, 
can be really inherent in Matter ; not to mention the 
peculiar difficulty there must be in conceiving a ma- 
terial substance, prior to and distinct from extension, 
to be the substratum of extension. Be the sensible 
quality what it will figure, or sound, or colour ; it 
seems alike impossible it should subsist in that which 
doth not perceive it. 

Hyl. I give up the point for the present, reserving 
still a right to retract my opinion, in case I shall here- 
after discover any false step in my progress to it. 

Phil. That is a right you cannot be denied. Fig- 
ures and extension being despatched, we proceed next 
to motion. Can a real motion in any external body 
be at the same time both very swift and very slow? 

Hyl. It cannot. 

Phil. Is not the motion of a body swift in a recip- 
rocal proportion to the time it takes up in describing 
any given space? Thus a body that describes a mile 
in an hour moves three times faster than it would in 
case it described only a mile in three hours. 

Hyl. I agree with you. 

1 The remainder of the present paragraph was not contained in the first 
and second editions. 


Phil. And is not time measured by the succession 
of ideas in our minds? 

Hyl. It is. 

Phil. And is it not possible ideas should succeed 
one another twice as fast in your mind as they do in 
mine, or in that of some spirit of another kind? 

Hyl. I own it. 

Phil. Consequently, the same body may to another 
seem to perform its motion over any space in half the 
time that it doth to you. And the same reasoning 
will hold as to any other proportion : that is to say, 
according to your principles (since the motions per- 
ceived are both really in the object) it is possible one 
and the same body shall be really moved the same way 
at once, both very swift and very slow. How is this 
consistent either with common sense, or with what 
you just now granted? 

Hyl. I have nothing to say to it. 

Phil. Then as for solidity; either you do not mean 
any sensible quality by that word, and so it is beside 
our inquiry : or if you do, it must be either hardness 
or resistance. But both the one and the other are 
plainly relative to our senses : it being evident that 
what seems hard to one animal may appear soft to 
another, who hath greater force and firmness of limbs. 
Nor is it less plain that the resistance I feel is not in 
the body. 

Hyl. I own the very sensation of resistance, which 
is all you immediately perceive, is not in the body, 
but the cause of that sensation is. 

Phil. But the causes of our sensations are not 
things immediately perceived, and therefore not sen- 
sible. This point I thought had been already deter- 


Hyl. I own it was ; but you will pardon me if I 
seem a little embarrassed : I know not how to quit 
my old notions. 

Phil. To help you out, do but consider that if ex- 
tension be once acknowledged to have no existence 
without the mind, the same must necessarily be granted 
of motion, solidity, and gravity since they all evi- 
dently suppose extension. It is therefore superfluous 
to inquire particularly concerning each of them. In 
denying extension, you have denied them all to have 
any real existence. 

Hyl. I wonder, Philonous, if what you say be true, 
why those philosophers who deny the Secondary Qual- 
ities any real existence, should yet attribute it to the 
Primary. If there is no difference between them, how 
can this be accounted for? 

Phil. It is not my business to account for every 
opinion of the philosophers. But, among other rea- 
sons which may be assigned for this, it seems prob- 
able that pleasure and pain being rather annexed to 
the former than the latter may be one. Heat and cold, 
tastes and smells, have something more vividly pleas- 
ing or disagreeable than the ideas of extension, figure, 
and motion affect us with. And, it being too visibly 
absurd to hold that pain or pleasure can be in an un- 
perceiving Substance, men are more easily weaned 
from believing the external existence of the Secondary 
than the Primary Qualities. You will be satisfied 
there is something in this, if you recollect the differ- 
ence you made between an intense and more mod- 
erate degree of heat ; allowing the one a real exist- 
ence, while you denied it to the other. But, after all, 
there is no rational ground for that distinction ; for, 
surely an indifferent sensation is as truly a sensation 


as one more pleasing or painful ; and consequently 
should not any more than they be supposed to exist 
in an unthinking subject. 

Hyl. It is just come into my head, Philonous, that 
I have somewhere heard of a distinction between ab- 
solute and sensible extension. Now, though it be 
acknowledged that great and small, consisting merely 
in the relation which other extended beings have to 
the parts of our own bodies, do not really inhere in 
the Substances themselves ; yet nothing obliges us to 
hold the same with regard to absolute extension, which 
is something abstracted from great and small, from 
this or that particular magnitude or figure. So like- 
wise as to motion ; swift and slow are altogether rela- 
tive to the succession of ideas in our own minds. But, 
it doth not follow, because those modifications of mo- 
tion exist not without the mind, that therefore abso- 
lute motion abstracted from them doth not. 

Phil, Pray what is it that distinguishes one mo- 
tion, or one part of extension, from another? Is it 
not something sensible, as some degree of swiftness 
or slowness, some certain magnitude or figure peculiar 
to each? 

Hyl. I think so. 

Phil. These qualities, therefore, stripped of all 
sensible properties, are without all specific and nu- 
merical differences, as the schools call them. 

Hyl. They are. 

Phil. That is to say, they are extension in general, 
and motion in general. 

Hyl. Let it be so. 

Phil. But it is a universally received maxim that 
Everything which exists is particular. How then can 


motion in general, or extension in general, exist in 
any corporeal Substance? 

Hyl. I will take time to solve your difficulty. 

Phil. But I think the point may be speedily de- 
cided. Without doubt you can tell whether you are 
able to frame this or that idea. Now I am content to 
put our dispute on this issue. If you can frame in 
your thoughts a distinct abstract idea of motion or 
extension ; divested of all those sensible modes, as 
swift and slow, great and small, round and square, 
and the like, which are acknowledged to exist only in 
the mind, I will then yield the point you contend for. 
But, if you cannot, it will be unreasonable on your 
side to insist any longer upon what you have no no- 
tion of. 

Hyl. To confess ingenuously, I cannot. 

Phil. Can you even separate the ideas of extension 
and motion from the ideas of all those qualities which 
they who make the distinction term secondary? 

Hyl. What! is it not an easy matter to consider 
extension and motion by themselves, abstracted from 
all other sensible qualities? Pray how do the mathe- 
maticians treat of them ? 

Phil. I acknowledge, Hylas, it is not difficult to 
form general propositions and reasonings about those 
qualities, without mentioning any other; and, in this 
sense, to consider or treat of them abstractedly. But, 
how doth it follow that, because I can pronounce the 
word motion by itself, I can form the idea of it in my 
mind exclusive of body? Or, because theorems may 
be made of extension and figures, without any men- 
tion of great or small, or any other sensible mode or 
quality, that therefore it is possible such an abstract 
idea of extension, without any particular size or fig- 


ure, or sensible quality, should be distinctly formed, 
and apprehended by the mind ? Mathematicians treat 
of quantity, without regarding what other sensible 
qualities it is attended with, as being altogether in- 
different to their demonstrations. But, when laying 
aside the words, they contemplate the bare ideas, I 
believe you will find, they are not the pure abstracted 
ideas of extension. 

Hyl. But what say you to pure intellect? May not 
abstracted idea be framed by that faculty? 

Phil. Since I cannot frame abstract ideas at all, it 
is plain I cannot frame them by the help of pure in- 
tellect; whatsoever faculty you understand by those 
words. Besides, not to inquire into the nature of 
pure intellect and its spiritual objects, as virtue, rea- 
son, God, or the like, thus much seems manifest, that 
sensible things are only to be perceived by sense, or 
represented by the imagination. Figures, therefore, 
and extension, being originally perceived by sense, 
do not belong to pure intellect : but, for your farther 
satisfaction, try if you can frame the idea of any fig- 
ure, abstracted from all particularities of size, or even 
from other sensible qualities. 

Hyl. Let me think a little I do not find that I 


Phil. And can you think it possible that should 
really exist in nature which implies a repugnancy in 
its conception? 

Hyl. By no means. 

Phil. Since therefore it is impossible even for the 
mind to disunite the ideas of extension and motion 
from all other sensible qualities, doth it not follow, 
that where the one exist there necessarily the other 
exist likewise? 


Hyl. It should seem so. 

Phil. Consequently, the very same arguments 
which you admitted as conclusive against the Secon- 
dary Qualities are, without any farther application of 
force, against the Primary too. Besides, if you will 
trust your senses, is it not plain all sensible qualities 
coexist, or to them appear as being in the same place? 
Do they ever represent a motion, or figure, as being 
divested of all other visible and tangible qualities? 

Hyl. You need say no more on this head. I am 
free to own, if there be no secret error or oversight in 
our proceedings hitherto, that all sensible qualities 
are alike to be denied existence without the mind. 
But, my fear is that I have been too liberal in my 
former concessions, or overlooked some fallacy or 
other. In short, I did not take time to think. 

Phil. For that matter, Hylas, you may take what 
time you please in reviewing the progress of our in- 
quiry. You are at liberty to recover any slips you 
might have made, or offer whatever you have omitted 
which makes for your first opinion. 

Hyl. One great oversight I take to be this that I 
did not sufficiently distinguish the object from the sen- 
sation. Now, though this latter may not exist without 
the mind, yet it will not thence follow that the former 

Phil. What object do you mean? The object of 
the senses? 

Hyl. The same. 

Phil. It is then immediately perceived? 

Hyl. Right. 

Phii. Make me to understand the difference be- 
tween what is immediately perceived, and a sensation. 

Hyl. The sensation I take to be an act of the mind 


perceiving ; besides which, there is something per- 
ceived ; and this I call the object. For example, there 
is red and yellow on that tulip. But then the act of 
perceiving those colours is in me only, and not in the 

Phtl. What tulip do you speak of? Is it that 
which you see? 

Hyl. The same. 

Phil. And what do you see beside colour, figure, 
and extension? 

Hyl. Nothing. 

Phil. What you would say then is that the red and 
yellow are coexistent with the extension; is it not? 

Hyl. That is not all ; I would say they have a real 
existence without the mind, in some unthinking sub- 

Phil. That the colours are really in the tulip which 
I see is manifest. Neither can it be denied that this 
tulip may exist independent of your mind or mine; 
but, that any immediate object of the senses that is, 
any idea, or combination of ideas should exist in an 
unthinking substance, or exterior to all minds, is in 
itself an evident contradiction. Nor can I imagine 
how this follows from what you said just now, to wit, 
that the red and yellow were on the tulip you saw, 
since you do not pretend to see that unthinking sub- 

Hyl. You have an artful way, Philonous, of divert- 
ing our inquiry from the subject. 

Phil. I see you have no mind to be pressed that 
way. To return then to your distinction between sen- 
sation and object; if I take you right, you distinguish 
in every perception two things, the one an action of 
the mind, the other not. 


Hyl. True. 

PhiL And this action cannot exist in, or belong to, 
any unthinking thing ; but, whatever beside is implied 
in a perception may? 

Hyl. That is my meaning. 

Phil. So that if there was a perception without 
any act of the mind, it were possible such a percep- 
tion should exist in an unthinking substance? 

Hyl. I grant it. But it is impossible there should 
be such a perception. 

Phil. When is the mind said to be active? 

Hyl. When it produces, puts an end to, or changes, 

Phil. Can the mind produce, discontinue, or change 
anything, but by an act of the will? 

Hyl. It cannot. 

Phil. The mind therefore is to be accounted active 
in its perceptions so far forth as -volition is included in 

Hyl. It is. 

Phil. In plucking this flower I am active ; because 
I do it by the motion of my hand, which was conse- 
quent upon my volition ; so likewise in applying it to 
my nose. But is either of these smelling? 

Hyl. No. 

Phil I act too in drawing the air through my 
nose; because my breathing so rather than otherwise 
is the effect of my volition. But neither can this be 
called smelling : for, if it were, I should smell every 
time I breathed in that manner? 

Hyl. True. 

Phil. Smelling then is somewhat consequent to all 

Hyl. It is. 


Phil. But I do not find my will concerned any 
farther. Whatever more there is as that I perceive 
such a particular smell, or any smell at all this is in- 
dependent of my will, and therein I am altogether 
passive. Do you find it otherwise with you, Hylas? 

Hyl. No, the very same. 

Phil. Then, as to seeing, is it not in your power 
to open your eyes, or keep them shut ; to turn them 
this or that way? 

Hyl. Without doubt. 

Phil. But, doth it in like manner depend on your 
will that in looking on this flower you perceive white 
rather than any other colour? Or, directing your open 
eyes towards yonder part of the heaven, can you avoid 
seeing the sun? Or is light or darkness the effect of 
your volition? 

Hyl. No certainly. 

Phil. You are then in these respects altogether 

Hyl. I am. 

Phil. Tell me now, whether seeing consists in per- 
ceiving light and colours, or in opening and turning 
the eyes? 

Hyl. Without doubt, in the former. 

Phil. Since therefore you are in the very percep- 
tion of light and colours altogether passive, what is 
become of that action you were speaking of as an in- 
gredient in every sensation? And, doth it not follow 
from your own concessions, that the perception of 
light and colours, including no action in it, may exist 
in an unperceiving substance? And is not this a plain 

Hyl. I know not what to think of it. 

Phil. Besides, since you distinguish the active and 


passive in every perception, you must do it in that of 
pain. But how is it possible that pain, be it as little 
active as you please, should exist in an unperceiving 
substance? In short, do but consider the point, and 
then confess ingenuously, whether light and colours, 
tastes, sounds, &c., are not all equally passions or 
sensations in the soul. You may indeed call them ex- 
ternal objects, and give them in words what subsist- 
ence you please. But, examine your own thoughts, 
and then tell me whether it be not as I say? 

HyL I acknowledge, Philonous, that, upon a fair 
observation of what passes in my mind, I can discover 
nothing else but that I am a thinking being, affected 
with variety of sensations; neither is it possible to 
conceive how a sensation should exist in an unper- 
ceiving substance. But then, on the other hand, when 
I look on sensible things in a different view, consider- 
ing them as so many modes and qualities, I find it 
necessary to suppose a material substratum, without 
which they cannot be conceived to exist. 

Phil. Material substratum call you it? Pray, by 
which of your senses came you acquainted with that 

HyL It is not itself sensible ; its modes and qual- 
ities only being perceived by the senses. 

Phil. I presume then it was by reflection and rea- 
son you obtained the idea of it? 

Hyl. I do not pretend to any proper positive idea 
of it. However, I conclude it exists, because qual- 
ities cannot be conceived to exist without a support. 

Phil. It seems then you have only a relative notion 
of it, or that you conceive it not otherwise than by 
conceiving the relation it bears to sensible qualities? 

Hyl. Right. 


Phil. Be pleased therefore to let me know wherein 
that relation consists. 

Hyl. Is it not sufficiently expressed in the term 
substratum or substance? 

Phil. If so, the word substratum should import 
that it is spread under the sensible qualities or acci- 

Hyl. True. 

Phil. And consequently under extension? 

Hyl. I own it. 

Phil. It is therefore somewhat in its own nature 
entirely distinct from extension? 

Hyl. I tell you, extension is only a mode, and 
Matter is something that supports modes. And is it 
not evident the thing supported is different from the 
thing supporting? 

Phil. So that something distinct from, and exclu- 
sive of, extension is supposed to be the substratum of 

Hyl. Just so. 

Phil. Answer me, Hylas. Can a thing be spread 
without extension ? or is not the idea of extension 
necessarily included in spreading? 

Hyl. It is. 

Phil. Whatsoever therefore you suppose spread 
under anything must have in itself an extension dis- 
tinct from the extension of that thing under which it 
is spread ? 

Hyl. It must. 

Phil. Consequently, every corporeal substance 
being the substratum of extension must have in itself 
another extension, by which it is qualified to be a sub- 
stratum : and so on to infinity? And I ask whether 
this be not absurd in itself, and repugnant to what 


you granted just now, to wit, that the substratum was 
something distinct from and exclusive of extension? 

Hyl. Aye, but, Philonous, you take me wrong. I 
do not mean that Matter is spread in a gross literal 
sense under extension. The word substratum is used 
only to express in general the same thing with sub- 

Phil. Well then, let us examine the relation im- 
plied in the term substance. Is it not that it stands 
under accidents? 

Hyl. The very same. 

Phil. But, that one thing may stand under or sup- 
port another, must it not be extended? 

Hyl. It must. 

Phil. Is not therefore this supposition liable to the 
same absurdity with the former? 

Hyl. You still take things in a strict literal sense ; 
that is not fair, Philonous. 

Phil. I am not for imposing any sense on your 
words: you are at liberty to explain them as you 
please. Only, I beseech you, make me understand 
something by them. You tell me Matter supports or 
stands under accidents. How ! is it as your legs sup- 
port your body? 

Hyl. No ; that is the literal sense. 

Phil. Pray let me know any sense, literal or not 
literal, that you understand it in. ... How long must 
I wait for an answer, Hylas? 

Hyl. I declare I know not what to say. I once 
thought I understood well enough what was meant by 
Matter's supporting accidents. But now, the more I 
think on it the less can I comprehend it ; in short I 
find that I know nothing of it. 

Phil. It seems then you have no idea at all, neither 


relative nor positive, of Matter; you know neither 
what it is in itself, nor what relation it bears to acci- 

Hyl. I acknowledge it. 

Phil. And yet you asserted that you could not con- 
ceive how qualities or accidents should really exist, 
without conceiving at the same time a material sup- 
port of them? 

Hyl. I did. 

Phil. That is to say, when you conceive the real 
existence of qualities, you do withal conceive some- 
thing which you cannot conceive? 

Hyl. It was wrong I own. But still I fear there is 
some fallacy or other. Pray what think you of this? 
It is just come into my head that the ground of all 
our mistake lies in your treating of each quality by it- 
self. Now, I grant that each quality cannot singly 
subsist without the mind. Colour cannot without ex- 
tension, neither can figure without some other sensible 
quality. But, as the several qualities united or blended 
together form entire sensible things, nothing hinders 
why such things may not be supposed to exist with- 
out the mind. 

Phil. Either, Hylas, you are jesting, or have a very 
bad memory. Though indeed we went through all 
the qualities by name one after another ; yet my argu- 
ments, or rather your concessions, nowhere tended 
to prove that the Secondary Qualities did not subsist 
each alone by itself ; but, that they were not at alt 
without the mind. Indeed, in treating of figure and 
motion we concluded they could not exist without the 
mind, because it was impossible even in thought to 
separate them from all secondary qualities, so as to 
conceive them existing by themselves. But then this 


was not the only argument made use of upon that oc- 
casion. But (to pass by all that hath been hitherto 
said, and reckon it for nothing, if you will have it so) 
I am content to put the whole upon this issue. If you 
can conceive it possible for any mixture or combina- 
tion of qualities, or any sensible object whatever, to 
exist without the mind, then I will grant it actually to 
be so. 

Hyl. If it comes to that the point will soon be de- 
cided. What more easy than to conceive a tree or 
house existing by itself, independent of, and unper- 
ceived by, any mind whatsoever? I do at this present 
.time conceive them existing after that manner. 

Phil. How say you, Hylas, can you see a thing 
which is at the same time unseen? 

Hyl. No, that were a contradiction. 

Phil. Is it not as great a contradiction to talk of 
conceiving a thing which is unconceived? 

Hyl. It is. 

Phil. The tree or house therefore which you think 
of is conceived by you? 

Hyl. How should it be otherwise? 

Phil. And what is conceived is surely in the mind? 

Hyl. Without question, that which is conceived is 
in the mind. 

Phil. How then came you to say, you conceived a 
house or tree existing independent and out of all minds 

Hyl. That was I own an oversight ; but stay, let 
me consider what led me into it. It is a pleasant mis- 
take enough. As I was thinking of a tree in a solitary 
place where no one was present to see it, methought 
that was to conceive a tree as existing unperceived or 
unthought of not considering that I myself conceived 


it all the while. But now I plainly see that all I can 
do is to frame ideas in my own mind. I may indeed 
conceive in my own thoughts the idea of a tree, or a 
house, or a mountain, but that is all. And this is far 
from proving that I can conceive them existing out of 
the minds of all Spirits. 

Phil. You acknowledge then that you cannot pos- 
sibly conceive how any one corporeal sensible thing 
should exist otherwise than in a mind? 

Hyl. I do. 

Phil. And yet you will earnestly contend for the 
truth of that which you cannot so much as conceive ? 

Hyl. I profess I know not what to think ; but still 
there are some scruples remain with me. Is it not 
certain I see things at a distance? Do we not per- 
ceive the stars and moon, for example, to be a great 
way off? Is not this, I say, manifest to the senses? 

Phil. Do you not in a dream too perceive those or 
the like objects? 

Hyl. I do. 

Phil. And have they not then the same appearance 
of being distant? 

Hyl. They have. 

Phil. But you do not thence conclude the appari- 
tions in a dream to be without the mind? 

Hyl. By no means. 

Phil. You ought not therefore to conclude that 
sensible objects are without the mind, from their ap- 
pearance or manner wherein they are perceived. 

Hyl. I acknowledge it. But doth not my sense 
deceive me in those cases? 

Phil. By no means. The idea or thing which you 
immediately perceive, neither sense nor reason in- 
forms you that it actually exists without the mind. 


By sense you only know that you are affected with 
such certain sensations of light and colours, &c. And 
these you will not say are without the mind. 

Hyl. True : but, beside all that, do you not think 
the sight suggests something of outness or distance? 

Phil. Upon approaching a distant object, do the 
visible size and figure change perpetually, or do they 
appear the same at all distances? 

Hyl. They are in a continual change. 

Phil. Sight therefore doth not suggest or any way 
inform you that the visible object you immediately 
perceive exists at a distance, 1 or will be perceived 
when you advance farther onward ; there being a con- 
tinued series of visible objects succeeding each other 
during the whole time of your approach. 

Hyl. It doth not; but still I know, upon seeing 
an object, what object I shall perceive after having 
passed over a certain distance : no matter whether it 
be exactly the same or no : there is still something of 
distance suggested in the case. 

Phil. Good Hylas, do but reflect a little on the 
point, and then tell me whether there be any more in 
it than this : From the ideas you actually perceive 
by sight, you have by experience learned to collect 
what other ideas you will (according to the standing 
order of nature) be affected with, after such a certain 
succession of time and motion. 

Hyl. Upon the whole, I take it to be nothing else. 

Phil. Now, is it not plain that if we suppose a 
man born blind was on a sudden made to see, he 
could at first have no experience of what may be sug- 
gested by sight? 

1 See the "Essay towards a New Theory of Vision," and its "Vindica- 
tion. "AUTHOR, 1734. 


Hyl. It is. 

Phil. He would not then, according to you, have 
any notion of distance annexed to the things he saw ; 
but would take them for a new set of sensations ex- 
isting only in his mind? 

Hyl. It is undeniable. 

Phil. But, to make it still more plain : is not dis- 
tance a line turned endwise to the eye? 

Hyl. It is. 

Phil. And can a line so situated be perceived by 

Hyl. It cannot. 

Phil. Doth it not therefore follow that distance is 
not properly and immediately perceived by sight? 

Hyl. It should seem so. 

Phil. Again, is it your opinion that colours are at 
a distance? 

Hyl. It must be acknowledged they are only in 
the mind. 

Phil. But do not colours appear to the eye as co- 
existing in the same place with extension and figures? 

Hyl. They do. 

Phil. How can you then conclude from sight that 
figures exist without, when you acknowledge colours 
do not ; the sensible appearance being the very same 
with regard to both ? 

Hyl. I know not what to answer. 

Phil. But, allowing that distance was truly and 
immediately perceived by the mind, yet it would not 
thence follow it existed out of the mind. For, what- 
ever is immediately perceived is an idea: and can 
any idea exist out of the mind? 

Hyl. To suppose that were absurd : but, inform 


me, Philonous, can we perceive or know nothing be- 
side our ideas? 

Phil. As for the rational deducing of causes from 
effects, that is beside our inquiry. And, by the senses 
you can best tell whether you perceive anything which 
is not immediately perceived. And I ask you, whether 
the things immediately perceived are other than your 
own sensations or ideas? You have indeed more than 
once, in the course of this conversation, declared 
yourself on those points ; but you seem, by this last 
question, to have departed from what you then 

Hyl. To speak the truth, Philonous, I think there 
are two kinds of objects : the one perceived immedi- 
ately, which are likewise called ideas ; the other are 
real things or external objects, perceived by the me- 
diation of ideas, which are their images and represen- 
tations. Now, I own ideas do not exist without the 
mind ; but the latter sort of objects do. I am sorry I 
did not think of this distinction sooner; it would 
probably have cut short your discourse. 

Phil. Are those external objects perceived by 
sense, or by some other faculty? 

Hyl. They are perceived by sense. 

Phil. How! is there anything perceived by sense 
which is not immediately perceived? 

Hyl. Yes, Philonous, in some sort there is. For 
example, when I look on a picture or statue of Julius 
Caesar, I may be said after a manner to perceive him 
(though not immediately) by my senses. 

Phil. It seems then you will have our ideas, which 
alone are immediately perceived, to be pictures of ex- 
ternal things : and that these also are perceived by 


sense, inasmuch as they have a conformity or resem- 
blance to our ideas? 

Hyl. That is my meaning. 

Phil. And, in the same way that Julius Caesar, in 
himself invisible, is nevertheless perceived by sight; 
real things, in themselves imperceptible, are per- 
ceived by sense. 

Hyl. In the very same. 

Phil. Tell me, Hylas, when you behold the picture 
of Julius Caesar, do you see with your eyes any more 
than some colours and figures, with a certain sym- 
metry and composition of the whole? 

Hyl. Nothing else. 

Phil. And would not a man who had never known 
anything of Julius Caesar see as much ? 

Hyl. He would. 

Phil. Consequently he hath his sight, and the use 
of it, in as perfect a degree as you? 

Hyl. I agree with you. 

Phil. Whence comes it then that your thoughts 
are directed to the Roman emperor, and his are not? 
This cannot proceed from the sensations or ideas of 
sense by you then perceived ; since you acknowledge 
you have no advantage over him in that respect. It 
should seem therefore to proceed from reason and 
memory: should it not? 

Hyl. It should. 

Phil. Consequently, it will not follow from that in- 
stance that anything is perceived by sense which is 
not immediately perceived. Though I grant we may, 
in one acceptation, be said to perceive sensible things 
mediately by sense that is, when, from a frequently 
perceived connexion, the immediate perception of 
ideas by one sense suggest to the mind others! per- 


haps belonging to another sense, which are wont to 
be connected with them. For instance, when I hear 
a coach drive along the streets, immediately I per- 
ceive only the sound ; but, from the experience I have 
had that such a sound is connected with a coach, I 
am said to hear the coach. It is nevertheless evident 
that, in truth and strictness, nothing can be heard but 
sound ; and the coach is not then properly perceived 
by sense, but suggested from experience. So like- 
wise when we are said to see a red-hot bar of iron ; 
the solidity and heat of the iron are not the objects of 
sight, but suggested to the imagination by the colour 
and figure which are properly perceived by that sense. 
In short, those things alone are actually and strictly 
perceived by any sense, which would have been per- 
ceived in case that same sense had then been first 
conferred on us. As for other things, it is plain they 
are only suggested to the mind by experience, grounded 
on former perceptions. But, to return to your com- 
parison of Caesar's picture, it is plain, if you keep to 
that, you must hold the real things or archetypes of 
our ideas are not perceived by sense, but by some in- 
ternal faculty of the soul, as reason or memory. I 
would therefore fain know what arguments you can 
draw from reason for the existence of what you call 
real things or material objects. Or, whether you re- 
member to have seen them formerly as they are in 
themselves ; or, if you have heard or read of any one 
that did. 

Hyl. I see, Philonous, you are disposed to raillery; 
but that will never convince me. 

Phil. My aim is only to learn from you the way to 
come at the knowledge of material beings. Whatever 
we perceive is perceived immediately or mediately : 


by sense ; or by reason and reflection. But, as you 
have excluded sense, pray shew me what reason you 
have to believe their existence ; or what medium you 
can possibly make use of to prove it, either to mine 
or your own understanding. 

Hyl. To deal ingenuously, Philonous, now I con- 
sider the point, I do not find I can give you any good 
reason for it. But, thus much seems pretty plain, 
that it is at least possible such things may really exist. 
And, as long as there is no absurdity in supposing 
them, I am resolved to believe as I did, till you bring 
good reasons to the contrary. 

Phil. What ! is it come to this, that you only be- 
lieve the existence of material objects, and that your 
belief is founded barely on the possibility of its being 
true? Then you will have me bring reasons against 
it : though another would think it reasonable the proof 
should lie on him who holds the affirmative. And, 
after all, this very point which you are now resolved 
to maintain, without any reason, is in effect what you 
have more than once during this discourse seen good 
reason to give up. But, to pass over all this ; if I 
understand you rightly, you say our ideas do not exist 
without the mind ; but that they are copies, images, 
or representations, of certain originals that do? 

Hyl. You take me right. 

Phil. They are then like external things? 

Hyl. They are. 

Phil. Have those things a stable and permanent 
nature, independent of our senses ; or are they in a 
perpetual change, upon our producing any motions in 
our bodies, suspending, exerting, or altering, our fac- 
ulties or organs of sense? 

Hyl. Real things, it is plain, have a fixed and real 


nature, which remains the same notwithstanding any 
change in our senses, or in the posture and motion of 
our bodies ; which indeed may affect the ideas in our 
minds, but it were absurd to think they had the same 
effect on things existing without the mind. 

Phil. How then is it possible that things perpetu- 
ally fleeting and variable as our ideas should be copies 
or images of anything fixed and constant? Or, in 
other words, since all sensible qualities, as size, figure, 
colour, &c., that is, our ideas, are continually chan- 
ging upon every alteration in the distance, medium, 
or instruments of sensation ; how can any determinate 
material objects be properly represented or painted 
forth by several distinct things, each of which is so 
different from and unlike the rest ? Or, if you say it 
resembles some one only of our ideas, how shall we 
be able to distinguish the true copy from all the false 

Hyl. I profess, Philonous, I am at a loss. I know 
not what to say to this. 

Phil. But neither is this all. Which are material 
objects in themselves perceptible or imperceptible? 

Hyl. Properly and immediately nothing can be 
perceived but ideas. All material things, therefore, 
are in themselves insensible, and to be perceived only 
by our ideas. 

Phil. Ideas then are sensible, and their archetypes 
or originals insensible? 

Hyl. Right. 

Phil. But how can that which is sensible be like 
that which is insensible? Can a real thing, in itself 
invisible, be like a colour; or a real thing, which is not 
audible, be like a sound? In a word, can anything 


be like a sensation or idea, but another sensation or 

Hyl. I must own, I think not. 

Phil. Is it possible there should be any doubt on 
the point? Do you not perfectly know your own 

Hyl. I know them perfectly ; since what I do not 
perceive or know can be no part of my idea. 

Phil. Consider, therefore, and examine them, and 
then tell me if there be anything in them which can 
exist without the mind? or if you can conceive any- 
thing like them existing without the mind? 

Hyl. Upon inquiry, I find it is impossible for me 
to conceive or understand how anything but an idea 
can be like an idea. And it is most evident that no 
idea can exist without the mind. 

Phil. You are therefore, by our principles, forced 
to deny the reality of sensible things ; since you made 
it to consist in an absolute existence exterior to the 
mind. That is to say, you are a downright sceptic. 
So I have gained my point, which was to shew your 
principles led to Scepticism. 

Hyl. For the present I am, if not entirely con- 
vinced, at least silenced. 

Phil. I would fain know what more you would re- 
quire in order to a perfect conviction. Have you not 
had the liberty of explaining yourself all manner of 
ways? Were any little slips in discourse laid hold 
and insisted on? Or were you not allowed to retract 
or reinforce anything you had offered, as best served 
your purpose? Hath not everything you could say 
been heard and examined with all the fairness imagin- 
able? In a word, have you not in every point been 
convinced out of your own mouth? and, if you can at 


present discover any flaw in any of your former con- 
cessions, or think of any remaining subterfuge, any 
new distinction, colour, or comment whatsoever, why 
do you not produce it ? 

Hyl. A little patience, Philonous. I am at present 
so amazed to see myself ensnared, and as it were im- 
prisoned in the labyrinths you have drawn me into, 
that on the sudden it cannot be expected I should 
find my way out. You must give me time to look 
about me and recollect myself? 

Phil. Hark ; is not this the college bell ? 

Hyl. It rings for prayers. 

Phil. We will go in then, if you please, and meet 
here again to-morrow morning. In the meantime, 
you may employ your thoughts on this morning's dis- 
course, and try if you can find any fallacy in it, or in- 
vent any new means to extricate yourself. 

Hyl. Agreed. 



I BEG your pardon, Philonous, for not meeting you 
sooner. All this morning my head was so filled 
with our late conversation that I had not leisure to 
think of the time of the day, or indeed of anything 

Philonous. I am glad you were so intent upon it, 
in hopes if there were any mistakes in your conces- 
sions, or fallacies in my reasonings from them, you 
will now discover them to me. 

Hyl. I assure you I have done nothing ever since 
I saw you but search after mistakes and fallacies, 
and, with that view, have minutely examined the 
whole series of yesterday's discourse : but all in vain, 
for the notions it led me into, upon review, appear 
still more clear and evident ; and, the more I consider 
them, the more irresistibly do they force my assent. 

Phil. And is not this, think you, a sign that they 
are genuine, that they proceed from nature, and are 
conformable to right reason? Truth and beauty are 
in this alike, that the strictest survey sets them both 
off to advantage ; while the false lustre of error and 
disguise cannot endure being reviewed, or too nearly 

Hyl. I own there is a great deal in what you say. 


Nor can any one" be more entirely satisfied of the truth 
of those odd consequences, so long as I have in view 
the reasonings that lead to them. But, when these 
are out of my thoughts, there seems, on the other 
hand, something so satisfactory, so natural and intel- 
ligible, in the modern way of explaining things that, 
I profess, I know not how to reject it. 

Phil. I know not what way you mean. 

Hyl. I mean the way of accounting for our sensa- 
tions or ideas. 

Phil. How is that? 

Hyl. It is supposed the soul makes her residence 
in some part of the brain, from which the nerves take 
their rise, and are thence extended to all parts of the 
body; and that outward objects, by the different im- 
pressions they make on the organs of sense, commu- 
nicate certain vibrative motions to the nerves ; and 
these being filled with spirits propagate them to the 
brain or seat of the soul, which, according to the va- 
rious impressions or traces thereby made in the brain, 
is variously affected with ideas. 

Phil. And call you this an explication of the man- 
ner whereby we are affected with ideas ? 

Hyl. Why not, Philonous; have you anything to 
object against it ? 

Phil. I would first know whether I rightly under- 
stand your hypothesis. You make certain traces in 
the brain to be the causes or occasions of our ideas. 
Pray tell me whether by the brain you mean any sen- 
sible thing. 

Hyl. What else think you I could mean ? 

Phil. Sensible things are all immediately perceiv- 
able ; and those things which are immediately per- 
ceivable are ideas ; and these exist only in the mind. 


Thus much you have, if I mistake not, long since 
agreed to. 

HyL I do not deny it. 

Phil. The brain therefore you speak of, being a 
sensible thing, exists only in the mind. Now, I would 
fain know whether you think it reasonable to suppose 
that one idea or thing existing in the mind occasions 
all other ideas. And, if you think so, pray how do 
you account for the origin of that primary idea or 
brain itself? 

HyL I do not explain the origin of our ideas by 
that brain which is perceivable to sense, this being it- 
self only a combination of sensible ideas, but by an- 
other which I imagine. 

Phil. But are not things imagined as truly in the 
mind as things perceived? 

Hyl. I must confess they are. 

Phil. It comes, therefore, to the same thing ; and 
you have been all this while accounting for ideas by 
certain motions or impressions of the brain, that is, 
by some alterations in an idea, whether sensible or 
imaginable it matters not. 

HyL I begin to suspect my hypothesis. 

Phil. Besides spirits, all that we know or conceive 
are our own ideas. When, therefore, you say all ideas 
are occasioned by impressions in the brain, do you 
conceive this brain or no? If you do, then you talk 
of ideas imprinted in an idea causing that same idea, 
which is absurd. If you do not conceive it, you talk 
unintelligibly, instead of forming a reasonable hy- 

HyL I now clearly see it was a mere dream. There 
is nothing in it. 

Phil. You need not be much concerned at it; for 


after all, this way of explaining things, as you called 
it, could never have satisfied any reasonable man. 
What connexion is there between a motion in the 
nerves, and the sensations of sound or colour in the 
mind? Or how is it possible these should be the effect 
of that? 

Hyl. But I could never think it had so little in it 
as now it seems to have. 

Phil. Well then, are you at length satisfied that 
no sensible things have a real existence ; and that you 
are in truth an arrant sceptic? 

Hyl. It is too plain to be denied. 

Phil. Look ! are not the fields covered with a de- 
lightful verdure? Is there not something in the woods 
and groves, in the rivers and clear springs, that 
sooths, that delights, that transports the soul? At 
the prospect of the wide and deep ocean, or some 
huge mountain whose top is lost in the clouds, or of 
an old gloomy forest, are not our minds filled with a 
pleasing horror? Even in rocks and deserts is there 
not an agreeable wildness? How sincere a pleasure 
is it to behold the natural beauties of the earth ! To 
preserve and renew our relish for them, is not the veil 
of night alternately drawn over her face, and doth she 
not change her dress with the seasons? How aptly 
are the elements disposed ! What variety and use in 
the meanest productions of nature ! What delicacy, 
what beauty, what contrivance, in animal and vege- 
table bodies ! How exquisitely are all things suited, 
as well to their particular ends, as to constitute oppo- 
site parts of the whole ! And, while they mutually 
aid and support, do they not also set off and illustrate 
each other? Raise now your thoughts from this ball 
of earth to all those glorious luminaries that adorn 


the high arch of heaven. The motion and situation 
of the planets, are they not admirable for use and 
order? Were those (miscalled erratic) globes ever 
known to stray, in their repeated journeys through 
the pathless void? Do they not measure areas round 
the sun ever proportioned to the times? So fixed, so 
immutable are the laws by which the unseen Author 
of nature actuates the universe. How vivid and ra- 
diant is the lustre of the fixed stars ! How magnifi- 
cent and rich that negligent profusion with which they 
appear to be scattered throughout the whole azure 
vault ! Yet, if you take the telescope, it brings into 
your sight a new host of stars that escape the naked 
eye. Here they seem contiguous and minute, but to 
a nearer view immense orbs of light at various dis- 
tances, far sunk in the abyss of space. Now you must 
call imagination to your aid. The feeble narrow sense 
cannot descry innumerable worlds revolving round 
the central fires ; and in those worlds the energy of 
an all-perfect Mind displayed in endless forms. But, 
neither sense nor imagination are big enough to com- 
prehend the boundless extent, with all its glittering 
furniture. Though the labouring mind exert and 
strain each power to its utmost reach, there still stands 
out ungrasped a surplusage immeasurable. Yet all 
the vast bodies that compose this mighty frame, how 
distant and remote soever, are by some secret mech- 
anism, some divine art and force, linked in a mutual 
dependence and intercourse with each other, even with 
this earth, which was almost slipt from my thoughts 
and lost in the crowd of worlds. Is not the whole 
system immense, beautiful, glorious beyond expres- 
sion and beyond thought ! What treatment, then, do 
those philosophers deserve, who would deprive these 


noble and delightful scenes of all reality? How should 
those Principles be entertained that lead us to think 
all the visible beauty of the creation a false imaginary 
glare? To be plain, can you expect this Scepticism 
of yours will not be thought extravagantly absurd by 
all men of sense? 

Hyl. Other men may think as they please ; but for 
your part you have nothing to reproach me with. My 
comfort is, you are as much a sceptic as I am. 

Phil. There, Hylas, I must beg leave to differ from 

Hyl. What ! have you all along agreed to the prem- 
ises, and do you now deny the conclusion, and leave 
me to maintain those paradoxes by myself which you 
led me into? This surely is not fair. 

Phil. I deny that I agreed with you in those no- 
tions that led to Scepticism. You indeed said the 
reality of sensible things consisted in an absolute exist- 
ence out of the minds of spirits, or distinct from their 
being perceived. And, pursuant to this notion of 
reality, you are obliged to deny sensible things any 
real existence : that is, according to your own defini- 
tion, you profess yourself a sceptic. But I neither 
said nor thought the reality of sensible things was to 
be defined after that manner. To me it is evident, 
for the reasons you allow of, that sensible things can- 
not exist otherwise than in a mind or spirit. Whence 
I conclude, not that they have no real existence, but 
that, seeing they depend not on my thought, and have 
an existence distinct from being perceived by me, 
there must be some other mind wherein they exist. As 
sure, therefore, as the sensible world really exists, so 
sure is there an infinite omnipresent Spirit, who con- 
tains and supports it. 


Hyl. What ! this is no more than I and all Chris- 
tians hold ; nay, and all others too who believe there 
is a God, and that He knows and comprehends all 

Phil. Aye, but here lies the difference. Men com- 
monly believe that all things are known or perceived 
by God, because they believe the being of a God ; 
whereas I, on the other side, immediately and neces- 
sarily conclude the being of a God, because all sen- 
sible things must be perceived by him. 

Hyl. But so long as we all believe the same thing, 
what matter is it how we come by that belief? 

Phil. But neither do we agree in the same opin- 
ion. For philosophers, though they acknowledge all 
corporeal beings to be perceived by God, yet they at- 
tribute to them an absolute subsistence distinct from 
their being perceived by any mind whatever, which I 
do not. Besides, is there no difference between say- 
ing, There is a God, therefore He perceives all things, 
and saying, Sensible things do really exist; and, if they 
really exist, they are necessarily perceived by an infinite 
mind: therefore there is an infinite mind, or God? This 
furnishes you with a direct and immediate demon- 
stration, from a most evident principle, of the being 
of a God. Divines and philosophers had proved be- 
yond all controversy, from the beauty and usefulness 
of the several parts of the creation, that it was the 
workmanship of God. But that setting aside all help 
of astronomy and natural philosophy, all contempla- 
tion of the contrivance, order and adjustment of things 
an infinite mind should be necessarily inferred from 
the bare existence of the sensible world, is an advan- 
tage to them only who have made this easy reflexion, 
that the sensible world is that which we perceive by 


our several senses ; and that nothing is perceived by 
the senses beside ideas ; and that no idea or arche- 
type of an idea can exist otherwise than in a mind. 
You may now, without any laborious search into the 
sciences, without any subtlety of reason, or tedious 
length of discourse, oppose and baffle the most stren- 
uous advocate for Atheism ; those miserable refuges, 
whether in an eternal succession of unthinking causes 
and effects, or in a fortuitous concourse of atoms ; 
those wild imaginations of Vanini, Hobbes, and Spi- 
noza : in a word, the whole system of Atheism, is it 
not entirely overthrown, by this single reflexion on 
the repugnancy included in supposing the whole, or 
any part, even the most rude and shapeless, of the 
visible world, to exist without a mind? Let any one 
of those abettors of impiety but look into his own 
thoughts, and there try if he can conceive how so 
much as a rock, a desert, a chaos, or confused jumble 
of atoms ; how anything at all, either sensible or im- 
aginable, can exist independent of a mind, and he 
need go no farther to be convinced of his folly. Can 
anything be fairer than to put a dispute on such an 
issue, and leave it to a man himself to see if 'he can 
conceive, even in thought, what he holds to be true 
in fact, and from a notional to allow it a real exist- 

Hyl. It cannot be denied there is something highly 
serviceable to religion in what you advance. But do 
you not think it looks very like a notion entertained 
by some eminent moderns, of seeing all things in God? 

Phil. I would gladly know that opinion : pray ex- 
plain it to me. 

Hyl. They conceive that the soul, being immate- 
rial, is incapable of being united with material things, 


so as to perceive them in themselves ; but that she per- 
ceives them by her union with the substance of God, 
which, being spiritual, is therefore purely intelligible, 
or capable of being the immediate object of a spirit's 
thought. Besides, the Divine essence contains in it 
perfections correspondent to each created being ; and 
which are, for that reason, proper to exhibit or repre- 
sent them to the mind. 

Phil. I do not understand how our ideas, which 
are things altogether passive and inert, can be the 
essence, or any part (or like any part) of the essence 
or substance of God, who is an impassive, indivisible, 
purely active being. Many more difficulties and ob- 
jections there are which occur at first view against 
this hypothesis ; but I shall only add that it is liable 
to all the absurdities of the common hypothesis, in 
making a created world exist otherwise than in the 
mind of a Spirit. Beside all which it hath this pe. 
culiar to itself; that it makes that material world 
serve to no purpose. And, if it pass for a good argu- 
ment against other hypotheses in the sciences that 
they suppose nature or the Divine wisdom to make 
something in vain, or do that by tedious roundabout 
methods which might have been performed in a much 
more easy and compendious way, what shall we think 
of that hypothesis which supposes the whole world 
made in vain? 

Hyl. But what say you, are not you too of opinion 
that we see all things in God? If I mistake not, what 
you advance comes near it. 

Phil. [Few men think, yet all have opinions. 
Hence men's opinions are superficial and confused. 
It is nothing strange that tenets, which in themselves 
are ever so different should nevertheless be confounded 


with each other by those who do not consider them 
attentively. I shall not therefore be surprised if some 
men imagine that I run into the enthusiasm of Male- 
branche ; though in truth I am very remote from it. 
He builds on the most abstract general ideas, which I 
entirely disclaim. He asserts an absolute external 
world, which I deny. He maintains that we are de- 
ceived by our senses, and know not the real natures 
or the true forms and figures of extended beings; of 
all which I hold the direct contrary. . So that upon 
the whole there are no principles more fundamentally 
opposite than his and mine. It must be owned that,]i 
I entirely agree with what the holy Scripture saith, 
"That in God we live and move and have our being." 
But that we see things in His essence, after the man- 
ner above set forth, I am far from believing. Take 
here in brief my meaning. It is evident that the 
things I perceive are my own ideas, and that no idea 
can exist unless it be in a mind. Nor is it less plain 
that these ideas or things by me perceived, either 
themselves or their archetypes, exist independently 
of my mind ; since I know myself not to be their 
author, it being out of my power to determine at 
pleasure what particular ideas I shall be affected with 
upon opening my eyes or ears. They must therefore 
exist in some other mind, whose will it is they should 
be exhibited to me. The things, I say, immediately 
perceived are ideas or sensations, call them which you 
will. But how can any idea or sensation exist in, or 
be produced by, anything but a mind or spirit? This 
indeed is inconceivable ; and to assert that which is 
inconceivable is to talk nonsense: is it not? 

I What precedes in this paragraph did not appear in the first and second 


Hyl. Without doubt. 

Phil. But, on the other hand, it is very conceiv- 
able that they should exist in and be produced by a 
Spirit ; since this is no more than I daily experience 
in myself, inasmuch as I perceive numberless ideas ; 
and, by an act of my will, can form a great variety of 
them, and raise them up in my imagination : though, 
it must be confessed, these creatures of the fancy are 
not altogether so distinct, so strong, vivid, and per- 
manent, as those perceived by my senses, which latter 
are called real things. From all which I conclude, 
there is a Mind which affects me every moment with all 
the sensible impressions I perceive. And, from the va- 
riety, order, and manner of these, I conclude the 
Author of them to be wise, powerful, and good, beyond 
comprehension. Mark it well ; I do not say, I see things 
by perceiving that which represents them in the in- 
telligible Substance of God. This I do not under- 
stand; but I say, the things by me perceived are 
known by the understanding, and produced by the 
will of an infinite Spirit. And is not all this most 
plain and evident? Is there any more in it than what 
a little observation of our own minds, and that which 
passeth in them, not only enableth us to conceive, 
but also obligeth us to acknowledge? 

Hyl. I think I understand you very clearly ; and 
own the proof you give of a Deity seems no less evi- 
dent than surprising. But, allowing that God is the 
supreme and universal Cause of all things, yet, may 
there not be still a third nature besides Spirits and 
Ideas? May we not admit a subordinate and limited 
cause of our ideas? In a word, may there not for all 
that be Matter? 

Phil. How often must I inculcate the same thing? 


You allow the things immediately perceived by sense 
to exist nowhere without the mind ; but there is noth- 
ing perceived by sense which is not perceived imme- 
diately : therefore there is nothing sensible that exists 
without the mind. The Matter, therefore, which you 
still insist on is something intelligible, I suppose ; 
something that may be discovered by reason, and not 
by sense. 

Hyl. You are in the right. 

Phil. Pray let me know what reasoning your belief 
of Matter is grounded on ; and what this Matter is in 
your present sense of it. 

Hyl. I find myself affected with various ideas, 
whereof I know I am not the cause ; neither are they 
the cause of themselves, or of one another, or capable 
of subsisting by themselves, as being altogether in- 
active, fleeting, dependent beings. They have there- 
fore some cause distinct from me and them : of which 
I pretend to know no more than that it is the cause of 
my ideas. And this thing, whatever it be, I call Matter. 

Phil. Tell me, Hylas, hath every one a liberty to 
change the current proper signification attached to a 
common name in any language? For example, sup- 
pose a traveller should tell you that in a certain coun- 
try men pass unhurt through the fire ; and, upon ex- 
plaining himself, you found he meant by the word 
fire that which others call water : or, if he should as- 
sert that there are trees that walk upon two legs, 
meaning men by the term trees. Would you think 
this reasonable? 

Hyl. No, I should think it very absurd. Common 
custom is the standard of propriety in language. And 
for any man to affect speaking improperly is to per- 
vert the use of speech, and can never serve to a better 


purpose than to protract and multiply disputes where 
there is no difference in opinion. 

Phil. And doth not Matter, in the common current 
acceptation of the word, signify an extended, solid, 
moveable, unthinking, inactive Substance? 

HyL It doth. 

Phil. And, hath it not been made evident that no 
such substance can possibly exist? And, though it 
should be allowed to exist, yet how can that which is 
inactive be a cause ; or that which is unthinking be a 
cause of thought? You may, indeed, if you please, an- 
nex to the word Matter a contrary meaning to what is 
vulgarly received ; and tell me you understand by it 
an unextended, thinking, active being, which is the 
cause of our ideas. But what else is this than to play 
with words, and run into that very fault you just now 
condemned with so much reason ? I do by no means 
find fault with your reasoning, in that you collect a 
cause from the phenomena : but I deny that the cause 
deducible by reason can properly be termed Matter. 

HyL There is indeed something in what you say. 
But I am afraid you do not thoroughly comprehend 
my meaning. I would by no means be thought to 
deny that God, or an infinite Spirit, is the Supreme 
Cause of all things. All I contend for is, that, sub- 
ordinate to the Supreme Agent, there is a cause of a 
limited and inferior nature, which concurs in the pro- 
duction of our ideas, not by any act of will or spiritual 
efficiency, but by that kind of action which belongs to 
Matter, viz., motion. 

Phil. I find you are at every turn relapsing into 
your old exploded conceit, of a moveable, and conse- 
quently an extended, substance existing without the 
mind. What! have you already forgotten you were 


convinced, or are you willing I should repeat what 
has been said on that head? In truth this is not fair 
dealing in you, still to suppose the being of that which 
you have so often acknowledged to have no being. 
But, not to insist farther on what has been so largely 
handled, I ask whether all your ideas are not perfectly 
passive and inert, including nothing of action in them. 

HyL They are. 

Phil. And are sensible qualities anything else but 
ideas ? 

Hyl. How often have I acknowledged that they 
are not. 

Phil. But is not motion a sensible quality? 

HyL It is. 

Phil. Consequently it is no action? 

Hyl. I agree with you. And indeed it is very plain 
that when I stir my finger it remains passive ; but my 
will which produced the motion is active. 

Phil. Now, I desire to know, in the first place, 
whether, motion being allowed to be no action, you 
can conceive any action besides volition : and, in the 
second place, whether to say something and conceive 
nothing be not to talk nonsense : and, lastly, whether, 
having considered the premises, you do not perceive 
that to suppose any efficient or active cause of our 
ideas, other than Spirit, is highly absurd and unrea- 
sonable ? 

Hyl. I give up the point entirely. But, though 
Matter may not be a cause, yet what hinders its being 
an instrument subservient to the supreme Agent in the 
production of our ideas? 

Phil. An instrument say you ; pray what may be 
the figure, springs, wheels, and motions, of that in- 


Hyl. Those I pretend to determine nothing of, 
both the substance and its qualities being entirely un- 
known to me. 

Phil. What! You are then of opinion it is made 
up of unknown parts, that it hath unknown motions, 
and an unknown shape? 

Hyl. I do not believe that it hath any figure or 
motion at all, being already convinced, that no sen- 
sible qualities can exist in an unperceiving substance. 

Phil. But what notion is it possible to frame of an 
instrument void of all sensible qualities, even exten- 
sion itself? 

Hyl. I do not pretend to have any notion of it. 

Phil. And what reason have you to think this un- 
known, this inconceivable Somewhat doth exist? Is 
it that you imagine God cannot act as well without 
it ; or that you find by experience the use of some 
such thing, when you form ideas in your own mind ? 

Hyl. You are always teasing me for reasons of my 
belief. Pray what reasons have you not to believe it? 

Phil. It is to me a sufficient reason not to believe 
the existence of anything, if I see no reason for believ- 
ing it. But, not to insist on reasons for believing, 
you will not so much as let me know what it is you 
would have me believe ; since you say you have no 
manner of notion of it. After all, let me entreat you 
to consider whether it be like a philosopher, or even 
like a man of common sense, to pretend to believe 
you know not what, and you know not why. 

Hyl. Hold, Philonous. When I tell you matter is 
an instrument, I do not mean altogether nothing. It 
is true, I know not the particular kind of instrument; 
but, however, I have some notion of instrument in gen- 
eral, which I apply to it. 


Phil. But what if it should prove that there is 
something, even in the most general notion of instru- 
ment, as taken in a distinct sense from cause, which 
makes the use of it inconsistent with the Divine at- 

Hyl. Make that appear and I shall give up the 

Phil. What mean you by the general nature or no- 
tion of instrument? 

Hyl. That which is common to all particular in- 
struments composeth the general notion. 

Phil. Is it not common to all instruments, that 
they are applied to the doing those things only which 
cannot be performed by the mere act of our wills ? 
Thus, for instance, I never use an instrument to move 
my finger, because it is done by a volition. But I 
should use one if I were to remove part of a rock, or 
tear up a tree by the roots. Are you of the same 
mind? Or, can you shew any example where an in- 
strument is made use of in producing an effect imme- 
diately depending on the will of the agent ? 

Hyl. I own I cannot. 

Phil. How therefore can you suppose that an all- 
perfect Spirit, on whose will all things have an abso- 
lute and immediate dependence, should need an in- 
strument in his operations, or, not needing it, make 
use of it? Thus, it seems to me that you are obliged 
to own the use of a lifeless inactive instrument to be 
incompatible with the infinite perfection of God; that 
is, by your own confession, to give up the point. 

Hyl. It doth not readily occur what I can answer 

Phil. But, methinks you should be ready to own 
the truth, when it hath been fairly proved to you. We 


indeed, who are beings of finite powers, are forced to 
make use of instruments. And the use of an instru- 
ment sheweth the agent to be limited by rules of an- 
other's prescription, and that he cannot obtain his end 
but in such a way, and by such conditions. Whence 
it seems a clear consequence, that the supreme un- 
limited Agent useth no tool or instrument at all. The 
will of an Omnipotent Spirit is no sooner exerted than 
executed, without the application of means which, if 
they are employed by inferior agents, it is not upon 
account of any real efficacy that is in them, or neces- 
sary aptitude to produce any effect, but merely in 
compliance with the laws of nature, or those condi- 
tions prescribed to them by the First Cause, who is 
Himself above all limitation or prescription whatso- 

Hyl. I will no longer maintain that Matter is an 
instrument. However, I would not be understood to 
give up its existence neither ; since, notwithstanding 
what hath been said, it may still be an occasion. 

Phil. How many shapes is your Matter to take? 
Or, how often must it be proved not to exist, before 
you are content to part with it? But, to say no more 
of this (though by all the laws of disputation I may 
justly blame you for so frequently changing the sig- 
nification of the principal term) I would fain know 
what you mean by affirming that matter is an occa- 
sion, having already denied it to be a cause. And, 
when you have shewn in what sense you understand 
occasion, pray, in the next place, be pleased to shew 
me what reason induceth you to believe there is such 
an occasion of our ideas? 

Hyl. As to the first point : by occasion I mean an 


inactive unthinking being, at the presence whereof 
God excites ideas in our minds. 

Phil. And what may be the nature of that inactive 
unthinking being? 

Hyl. I know nothing of its nature. 

Phil. Proceed then to the second point, and assign 
some reason why we should allow an existence to this 
inactive, unthinking, unknown thing. 

Hyl. When we see ideas produced in our minds 
after an orderly and constant manner, it is natural to 
think they have some fixed and regular occasions, at 
the presence of which they are excited. 

Phil. You acknowledge then God alone to be the 
cause of our ideas, and that He causes them at the 
presence of those occasions. 

Hyl. That is my opinion. 

Phil. Those things which you say are present to 
God, without doubt He perceives. 

Hyl. Certainly ; otherwise they could not be to 
Him an occasion of acting. 

Phil. Not to insist now on your making sense of 
this hypothesis, or answering all the puzzling ques- 
tions and difficulties it is liable to : I only ask whether 
the order and regularity observable in the series of 
our ideas, or the course of nature, be not sufficiently 
accounted for by the wisdom and power of God ; and 
whether it doth not derogate from those attributes, to 
suppose He is influenced, directed, or put in mind, 
when and what He is to act, by an unthinking sub- 
stance? And, lastly, whether, in case I granted all 
you contend for, it would make anything to your pur- 
pose, it not being easy to conceive how the external 
or absolute existence of an unthinking substance, dis- 
tinct from its being perceived, can be inferred from 


my allowing that there are certain things perceived 
by the mind of God, which are to Him the occasion 
of producing ideas in us? 

Hyl. I am perfectly at a loss what to think, this 
notion of occasion seeming now altogether as ground- 
less as the rest. 

Phil. Do you not at length perceive that in all 
these different acceptations of Matter, you have been 
only supposing you know not what, for no manner of 
reason, and to no kind of use? 

Hyl. I freely own myself less fond of my notions 
since they have been so accurately examined. But 
still, methinks, I have some confused perception that 
there is such a thing as Matter. 

Phil. Either you perceive the being of Matter im- 
mediately, or mediately. If immediately, pray inform 
me by which of the senses you perceive it. If medi- 
ately, let me know by what reasoning it is inferred 
from those things which you perceive immediately. 
So much for the perception. Then for the Matter it- 
self, I ask whether it is object, substratum, cause, in- 
strument, or occasion? You have already pleaded for 
each of these, shifting your notions, and making Mat- 
ter to appear sometimes in one shape, then in an- 
other. And what you have offered hath been disap- 
proved and rejected by yourself. If you have anything 
new to advance I would gladly hear it. 

Hyl. I think I have already offered all I had to 
say on those heads. I am at a loss what more to 

Phil. And yet you are loath to part with your old 
prejudice. But, to make you quit it more easily, I 
desire that, beside what has been hitherto suggested, 
you will farther consider whether, upon supposition 


that Matter exists, you can possibly conceive how you 
should be affected by it? Or, supposing it did not 
exist, whether it be not evident you might for all that 
be affected with the same ideas you now are, and con- 
sequently have the very same reasons to believe its 
existence that you now can have? 

Hyl. I acknowledge it is possible we might per- 
ceive all things just as we do now, though there was 
no Matter in the world ; neither can I conceive, if 
there be Matter, how it should produce any idea in 
our minds. And, I do farther grant you have entirely 
satisfied me that it is impossible there should be such 
a thing as Matter in any of the foregoing acceptations. 
But still I cannot help supposing that there is Matter 
in some sense or other. What that is I do not indeed 
pretend to determine. 

Phil. I do not expect you should define exactly 
the nature of that unknown being. Only be pleased to 
tell me whether it is a Substance and if so, whether 
you can suppose a substance without accidents ; or, 
in case you suppose it to have accidents or qualities, 
I desire you will let me know what those qualities are, 
at least what is meant by Matter's supporting them? 

Hyl. We have already argued on those points. I 
have no more to say to them. But, to prevent any 
farther questions, let me tell you I at present under- 
stand by Matter neither substance nor accident, think- 
ing nor extended being, neither cause, instrument, 
nor occasion, but something entirely unknown, dis- 
tinct from all these. 

Phil. It seems then you include in your present 
notion of Matter nothing but the general abstract idea 
of entity. 

Hyl. Nothing else, save only that I superadd to 


this general idea the negation of all those particular 
things, qualities, or ideas, that I perceive, imagine, 
or in anywise apprehend. 

Phil. Pray where do you suppose this unknown 
Matter to exist? 

Hyl. Oh Philonous! now you think you have en- 
tangled me ; for, if I say it exists in place then you 
will infer that it exists in the mind, since it is agreed 
that place or extension exists only in the mind : but I 
am not ashamed to own my ignorance. I know not 
where it exists ; only I am sure it exists not in place. 
There is a negative answer for you. And you must 
expect no other to all. the questions you put for the 
future about Matter. 

Phil. Since you will not tell me where it exists, be 
pleased to inform me after what manner you suppose 
it to exist, or what you mean by its existence? 

Hyl. It neither thinks nor acts, neither perceives 
nor is perceived. 

Phil. But what is there positive in your abstracted 
notion of its existence? 

Hyl. Upon a nice observation, I do not find I have 
any positive notion or meaning at all. I tell you 
again, I am not ashamed to own my ignorance. I 
know not what is meant by its existence, or how it ex- 

Phil. Continue, good Hylas, to act the same in- 
genuous part, and tell me sincerely whether you can 
frame a distinct idea of Entity in general, prescinded 
from and exclusive of all thinking and corporeal be- 
ings, all particular things whatsoever. 

Hyl. Hold, let me think a little 1 profess, 

Philonous, I do not find that I can. At first glance, 
methought I had some dilute and airy notion of pure 


Entity in abstract ; but, upon closer attention, it hath 
quite vanished out of sight. The more I think on it, 
the more am I confirmed in my prudent resolution of 
giving none but negative answers, and not pretending 
to the least degree of any positive knowledge or con- 
ception of Matter, its where, its how, its entity, or any- 
thing belonging to it. 

Phil. When, therefore, you speak of the existence 
of Matter, you have not any notion in your mind? 

Hyl. None at all. 

Phil. Pray tell me if the case stands not thus : at 
first, from a belief of material substance, you would 
have it that the immediate objects existed without the 
mind ; then that they are archetypes ; then causes ; 
next instruments ; then occasions : lastly, something in 
general, which being interpreted proves nothing. So 
Matter comes to nothing. What think you, Hylas, is 
not this a fair summary of your whole proceeding? 

Hyl. Be that as it will, yet I still insist upon it, 
that our not being able to conceive a thing is no argu- 
ment against its existence. 

Phil. That from a cause, effect, operation, sign, 
or other circumstance there may reasonably be in- 
ferred the existence of a thing not immediately per- 
ceived ; and that it were absurd for any man to argue 
against the existence of that thing, from his having 
no direct and positive notion of it, I freely own. But, 
where there is nothing of all this ; where neither rea- 
son nor revelation induces us to believe the existence 
of a thing ; where we have not even a relative notion 
of it ; where an abstraction is made from perceiving 
and being perceived, from Spirit and idea : lastly, 
where there is not so much as the most inadequate or 
faint idea pretended to : I will not indeed thence con- 


elude against the reality of any notion, or existence 
of anything ; but my inference shall be, that you mean 
nothing at all ; that you employ words to no manner 
of purpose, without any design or signification what- 
soever. And I leave it to you to consider how mere 
jargon should be treated. 

Hyl. To deal frankly with you, Philonous, your 
arguments seem in themselves unanswerable ; but 
they have not so great an effect on me as to produce 
that entire conviction, that hearty acquiescence, which 
attends demonstration. I find myself still relapsing 
into an obscure surmise of I know not what, matter. 

Phil. But, are you not sensible, Hylas, that two 
things must concur to take away all scruple, and work 
a plenary assent in the mind ? Let a visible object be 
set in never so clear a light, yet, if there is any imper- 
fection in the sight, or if the eye is not directed to- 
wards it, it will not be distinctly seen. And, though 
a demonstration be never so well grounded and fairly 
proposed, yet, if there is withal a stain of prejudice, 
or a wrong bias on the understanding, can it be ex- 
pected on a sudden to perceive clearly and adhere 
firmly to the truth? No, there is need of time and 
pains : the attention must be awakened and detained 
by a frequent repetition of the same thing placed oft 
in the same, oft in different lights. I have said it 
already, and find I must still repeat and inculcate, 
that it is an unaccountable licence you take, in pre- 
tending to maintain you know not what, for you know 
not what reason, to you know not what purpose. Can 
this be paralleled in any art or science, any sect or 
profession of men? Or is there anything so bare- 
facedly groundless and unreasonable to be met with 
even in the lowest of common conversation? But, 


perhaps you will still say, Matter may exist ; though 
at the same time you neither know what is meant by 
Matter, or by its existence. This indeed is surprising, 
and the more so because it is altogether voluntary, 
you not being led to it by any one reason ; for I chal- 
lenge you to shew me that thing in nature which 
needs matter to explain or account for it. 

Hyl. The reality of things cannot be maintained 
without supposing the existence of Matter. And is 
not this, think you, a good reason why I should be 
earnest in its defence? 

Phil. The reality of things ! What things, sensible 
or intelligible? 

Hyl. Sensible things. 

Phil. My glove, for example? 

Hyl. That or any other thing perceived by the 

Phil. But to fix on some particular thing ; is it not 
a sufficient evidence to me of the existence of this 
glove, that I see it, and feel it, and wear it? Or, if 
this will not do, how is it possible I should be assured 
of the reality of this thing, which I actually see in this 
place, by supposing that some unknown thing, which 
I never did or can see, exists after an unknown man- 
ner, in an unknown place, or in no place at all? How 
can the supposed reality of that which is intangible 
be a proof that anything tangible really exists? Or, 
of that which is invisible, that any visible thing, or, 
in general of anything which is imperceptible, that a 
perceptible exists? Do but explain this and I shall 
think nothing too hard for you. 

Hyl. Upon the whole, I am content to own the 
existence of Matter is highly improbable ; but the di- 


rect and absolute impossibility of it does not appear 
to me. 

Phil. But, granting Matter to be possible, yet, 
upon that account merely, it can have no more claim 
to existence than a golden mountain or a centaur. 

Hyl. I acknowledge it ; but still you do not deny 
it is possible ; and that which is possible, for aught 
you know, may actually exist. 

Phil. I deny it to be possible ; and have, if I mis- 
take not, evidently proved, from your own conces- 
sions, that it is not. In the common sense of the 
word Matter, is there any more implied than an ex- 
tended, solid, figured, moveable substance existing 
without the mind ? And have not you acknowledged, 
over and over, that you have seen evident reason for 
denying the possibility of such a substance? 

Hyl. True, but that is only one sense of the term 

Phil. But, is it not the only proper genuine re- 
ceived sense? and, if Matter in such a sense be proved 
impossible, may it not be thought with good grounds 
absolutely impossible? Else how could anything be 
proved impossible ? Or, indeed, how could there be 
any proof at all one way or other, to a man who takes 
the liberty to unsettle and change the common signifi- 
cation of words? 

Hyl. I thought philosophers might be allowed to 
speak more accurately than the vulgar, and were not 
always confined to the common acceptation of a term. 

Phil. But this now mentioned is the common re- 
ceived sense among philosophers themselves. But, 
not to insist on that, have you not been allowed to 
take Matter in what sense you pleased? And have 
you not used this privilege in the utmost extent, some- 


times entirely changing, at others leaving out or put- 
ting into the definition of it whatever, for the present, 
best served your design, contrary to all the known 
rules of reason and logic? And hath not this shifting, 
unfair method of yours spun out our dispute to an 
unnecessary length ; Matter having been particularly 
examined, and by your own confession refuted in each 
of those senses ? And can any more be required to 
prove the absolute impossibility of a thing, than the 
proving it impossible in every particular sense that 
either you or any one else understands it in? 

Hyl. But I am not so thoroughly satisfied that you 
have proved the impossibility of matter, in the last 
most obscure abstracted and indefinite sense. 

Phil. When is a thing shewn to be impossible? 

Hyl. When a repugnancy is demonstrated between 
the ideas comprehended in its definition. 

Phil. But where there are no ideas, there no re- 
pugnancy can be demonstrated between ideas? 

Hyl. I agree with you. 

Phil. Now, in that which you call the obscure in- 
definite sense of the word Matter, it is plain, by your 
own confession, there was included no idea at all, no 
sense except an unknown sense, which is the same 
thing as none. You are not, therefore, to expect I 
should prove a repugnancy between ideas, where there 
are no ideas: or the impossibility of Matter taken in 
an unknown sense, that is, no sense at all. My busi- 
ness was only to shew you meant nothing; and this 
you were brought to own. So that, in all your vari- 
ous senses, you have been shewed either to mean 
nothing at all, or, if anything, an absurdity. And if 
this be not sufficient to prove the impossibility of a 
thing, I desire you will let me know what is. 


Hyl. I acknowledge you have proved that Matter 
is impossible ; nor do I see what more can be said in 
defence of it. But, at the same time that I give up 
this, I suspect all my other notions. For surely none 
could be more seemingly evident than this once was : 
and yet it now seems as false and absurd as ever it 
did true before. But I think we have discussed the 
point sufficiently for the present. The remaining part 
of the day I would willingly spend in running over in 
my thoughts the several heads of this morning's con- 
versation, and to-morrow shall be glad to meet you 
here again about the same time. 

Phil. I will not fail to attend you. 



r T~VELL me, Hylas, what are the fruits of yesterday's 
JL meditation? Hath it confirmed you in the same 
mind you were in at parting? or have you since seen 
cause to change your opinion? 

HyL Truly my opinion is that all our opinions are 
alike vain and uncertain. What we approve to-day, 
we condemn to-morrow. We keep a stir about knowl- 
edge, and spend our lives in the pursuit of it, when, 
alas ! we know nothing all the while : nor do I think 
it possible for us ever to know anything in this life. 
Our faculties are too narrow and too few. Nature 
certainly never intended us for speculation. 

Phil. What! say you we can know nothing, Hy las? 

Hyl. There is not that single thing in the world 
whereof we can know the real nature, or what it is in 

Phil. Will you tell me I do not really know what 
fire or water is? 

Hyl. You may indeed know that fire appears hot, 
and water fluid; but this is no more than knowing 
what sensations are produced in your own mind, upon 
the application of fire and water to your organs of 
sense. Their internal constitution, their true and real 
nature, you are utterly in the dark as to that. 


Phil. Do I not know this to be a real stone that I 
stand on, and that which 1 see before my eyes to be a 
real tree? 

Hyl. Know? No, it is impossible you or any man 
alive should know it. All you know is, that you have 
such a certain idea or appearance in your own mind. 
But what is this to the real tree or stone? I tell you 
that colour, figure, and hardness, which you perceive, 
are not the real natures of those things, or in the least 
like them. The same may be said of all other real 
things or corporeal substances which compose the 
world. They have none of them anything of them- 
selves, like those sensible qualities by us perceived. 
We should not therefore pretend to affirm or know 
anything of them, as they are in their own nature. 

Phil. But surely, Hylas, I can distinguish gold, 
for example, from iron : and how could this be, if I 
knew not what either truly was? 

Hyl. Believe me, Philonous, you can only distin- 
guish between your own ideas. That yellowness, that 
weight, and other sensible qualities, think you they 
are really in the gold? They are only relative to the 
senses and have no absolute existence in nature. And 
in pretending to distinguish the species of real things, 
by the appearances in your mind, you may perhaps 
act as wisely as he that should conclude two men 
were of a different species, because their clothes were 
not of the same colour. 

Phil. It seems, then, we are altogether put off 
with the appearances of things, and those false ones 
too. The very meat I eat, and the cloth I wear, have 
nothing in them like what I see and feel. 

Hyl. Even so. 

Phil. But is it not strange the whole world should 


be thus imposed on, and so foolish as to believe their 
senses? And yet I know not how it is, but men eat, 
and drink, and sleep, and perform all the offices of 
life, as comfortably and conveniently as if they really 
knew the things they are conversant about. 

Hyl. They do so : but you know ordinary practice 
does not require a nicety of speculative knowledge. 
Hence the vulgar retain their mistakes, and for all 
that make a shift to bustle through the affairs of life. 
But philosophers know better things. 

Phil. You mean, they know that they know nothing. 

Hyl. That is the very top and perfection of human 

Phil. But are you all this while in earnest, Hylas; 
and are you seriously persuaded that you know noth- 
ing real in the world? Suppose you are going to 
write, would you not call for pen, ink, and paper, like 
another man ; and do you not know what it is you call 

Hyl. How often must I tell you, that I know not 
the real nature of any one thing in the universe? I 
may indeed upon occasion make use of pen, ink, and 
paper. But, what any one of them is in its own true 
nature, I declare positively I know not. And the same 
is true with regard to every other corporeal thing. 
And, what is more, we are not only ignorant of the 
true and real nature of things, but even of their exist- 
ence. It cannot be denied that we perceive such cer- 
tain appearances or ideas ; but it cannot be concluded 
from thence that bodies really exist. Nay, now I think 
on it, I must, agreeably to my former concessions, 
farther declare that it is impossible any real corporeal 
thing should exist in nature. 

Phil. You amaze me. Was ever anything more 


wild and extravagant than the notions you now main- 
tain : and is it not evident you are led into all these 
extravagances by the belief of material substance? This 
makes you dream of those unknown natures in every- 
thing. It is this occasions your distinguishing be- 
tween the reality and sensible appearances of things. 
It is to this you are indebted for being ignorant of 
what everybody else knows perfectly well. Nor is 
this all : you are not only ignorant of the true nature 
of everything, but you know not whether any thing 
really exists, or whether there are any true natures at 
all ; forasmuch as you attribute to your material beings 
an absolute or external existence, wherein you sup- 
pose their reality consists. And, as you are forced in 
the end to acknowledge such an existence means 
either a direct repugnancy, or nothing at all, it fol- 
lows that you are obliged to pull down your own hy- 
pothesis of material Substance, and positively to deny 
the real existence of any part of the universe. And 
so you are plunged into the deepest and most deplor- 
able Scepticism that ever man was. Tell me, Hylas, is 
it not as I say? 

Hyl. I agree with you. Material substance was no 
more than an hypothesis, and a false and groundless 
one too. I will no longer spend my breath in defence 
of it. But, whatever hypothesis you advance, or what- 
soever scheme of things you introduce in its stead, I 
doubt not it will appear every whit as false : let me 
but be allowed to question you upon it. That is, suf- 
fer me to serve you in your own kind, and I warrant 
it shall conduct you through as many perplexities and 
contradictions, to the very same state of Scepticism 
that I myself am in at present. 

Phil. I assure you, Hylas, I do not pretend to 


frame any hypothesis at all. I am of a vulgar cast, 
simple enough to believe my senses, and leave things 
as I find them. To be plain, it is my opinion that the 
real things are those very things I see and feel, and 
perceive by my senses. These I know, and, finding 
they answer all the necessities and purposes of life, 
have no reason to be solicitous about any other un- 
known beings. A piece of sensible bread, for instance, 
would stay my stomach better than ten thousand 
times as much of that insensible, unintelligible, real 
bread you speak of. It is likewise my opinion that 
colours and other sensible qualities are on the objects. 
I cannot for my life help thinking that snow is white, 
and fire hot. You indeed, who by snow andyfrr mean 
certain external, unperceived, unperceiving substances, 
are in the right to deny whiteness or heat to be affec- 
tions inherent in them. But I, who understand by 
those words the things I see and feel, am obliged to 
think like other folks. And, as I am no sceptic with 
regard to the nature of things, so neither am I as to 
their existence. That a thing should be really per- 
ceived by my senses, and at the same time not really 
exist, is to me a plain contradiction ; since I cannot 
prescind or abstract, even in thought, the existence 
of a sensible thing from its being perceived. Wood, 
stones, fire, water, flesh, iron, and the like things, 
which I name and discourse of, are things that I 
know. And I should not have known them but that 
I perceived them by my senses ; and things perceived 
by the senses are immediately perceived ; and things 
immediately perceived are ideas ; and ideas cannot 
exist without the mind ; their existence therefore con- 
sists in being perceived ; when, therefore, they are 
actually perceived there can be no doubt of their ex- 


istence. Away then with all that Scepticism, all those 
ridiculous philosophical doubts. What a jest is it for 
a philosopher to question the existence of sensible 
things, till he hath it proved to him from the veracity 
of God ; or to pretend our knowledge in this point 
falls short of intuition or demonstration ! I might as 
well doubt of my own being, as of the being of those 
things I actually see and feel. 

Hyl. Not so fast, Philonous: you say you cannot 
conceive how sensible things should exist without the 
mind. Do you not? 

Phil. I do. 

Hyl. Supposing you were annihilated, cannot you 
conceive it possible that things perceivable by sense 
may still exist? 

Phil. I can ; but then it must be in another mind. 
When I deny sensible things an existence out of the 
mind, I do not mean my mind in particular, but all 
minds. Now, it is plain, they have an existence ex- 
terior to my mind ; since I find them by experience to 
be independent of it. There is therefore some other 
mind wherein they exist, during the intervals between 
the times of my perceiving them : as likewise they did 
before my birth, and would do after my supposed an- 
nihilation. And, as the same is true with regard to 
all other finite created spirits, it necessarily follows 
there is an omnipresent eternal Mind, which knows and 
comprehends all things, and exhibits them to our view 
in such a manner, and according to such rules, as He 
Himself hath ordained, and are by us termed the laws 
of nature. 

Hyl. Answer me, Philonous. Are all our ideas per- 
fectly inert beings? Or have they any agency included 
in them? 


Phil. They are altogether passive and inert. 

Hyl. And is not God an agent, a being purely ac- 

Phil. I acknowledge it. 

Hyl. No idea therefore can be like unto, or repre- 
sent the nature of God? 

Phil. It cannot. 

Hyl. Since therefore you have no idea of the mind 
of God, how can you conceive it possible that things 
should exist in His mind? Or, if you can conceive 
the mind of God, without having an idea of it, why 
may not I be allowed to conceive the existence of 
Matter, notwithstanding I have no idea of it ? 

Phil. As to your first question : I own I have prop- 
erly no idea, either of God or any other spirit ; for 
these being active, cannot be represented by things 
perfectly inert, as our ideas are. I do nevertheless 
know that I, who am a spirit or thinking substance, 
exist as certainly as I know my ideas exist. Farther, 
I know what I mean by the terms / and myself; and I 
know this immediately or intuitively, though I do not 
perceive it as I perceive a triangle, a colour, or a 
sound. The Mind, Spirit, or Soul is that indivisible 
unextended thing which thinks, acts, and perceives. 
I say indivisible, because unextended ; and unextended, 
because extended, figured, moveable things are ideas ; 
and that which perceives ideas, which thinks and 
wills, is plainly itself no idea, nor like an idea. Ideas 
are things inactive, and perceived. And Spirits a sort 
of beings altogether different from them. I do not 
therefore say my soul is an idea, or like an idea. 
However, taking the word idea in a large sense, my 
soul may be said to furnish me with an idea, that is, 
an image or likeness of God, though indeed extremely 


inadequate. For, all the notion I have of God is ob- 
tained by reflecting on my own soul, heightening its 
powers, and removing its imperfections. I have, there- 
fore, though not an inactive idea, yet in myself some, 
sort of an active thinking image of the Deity. And, 
though I perceive Him not by sense, yet I have a no- 
tion of Him, or know Him by reflexion and reason- 
ing. My own mind and my own ideas I have an im- 
mediate knowledge of; and, by the help of these, do 
mediately apprehend the possibility of the existence 
of other spirits and ideas. Farther, from my own 
being, and from the dependency I find in myself and 
my ideas, I do, by an act of reason, necessarily infer 
the existence of a God, and of all created things in 
the mind of God. So much for your first question. 
For the second : I suppose by this time you can an- 
swer it yourself. For you neither perceive Matter 
objectively, as you do an inactive being or idea ; nor 
know it, as you do yourself, by a reflex act ; neither 
do you mediately apprehend it by similitude of the 
one or the other ; nor yet collect it by reasoning from 
that which you know immediately. All which makes 
the case of Matter widely different from that of the 
Deity. J 

Hyl. You say your own soul supplies you with 
some sort of an idea or image of God. But, at the 
same time, you acknowledge you have, properly speak- 
ing, no idea of your own soul. You even affirm that 
spirits are a sort of beings altogether different from 
ideas. Consequently that no idea can be like a spirit. 
We have therefore no idea of any spirit. You admit 
nevertheless that there is spiritual Substance, although 

1 The four following paragraphs were not contained in the first and sec- 
ond editions. 


you have no idea of it ; while you deny there can be 
such a thing as material Substance, because you have 
no notion or idea of it. Is this fair dealing? To act 
consistently, you must either admit Matter or reject 
Spirit. What say you to this? 

Phil. I say, in the first place, that I do not deny 
the existence of material substance, merely because I 
have no notion of it, but because the notion of it is 
inconsistent; or, in other words, because it is repug- 
nant that there should be a notion of it. Many things, 
for aught I know, may exist, whereof neither I nor 
any other man hath or can have any idea or notion 
whatsoever. But then those things must be possible, 
that is, nothing inconsistent must be included in their 
definition. I say, secondly, that, although we believe 
things to exist which we do not perceive, yet we may 
not believe that any particular thing exists, without 
some reason for such belief : but I have no reason for 
believing the existence of Matter. I have no imme- 
diate intuition thereof : neither can I immediately 
from my sensations, ideas, notions, actions, or pas- 
sions, infer an unthinking, unperceiving, inactive Sub- 
stance, either by probable deduction, or necessary 
consequence. Whereas the being of my Self, that is, 
my own soul, mind, or thinking principle, I evidently 
know by reflexion. You will forgive me if I repeat 
the same things in answer to the same objections. In 
the very notion or definition of material Substance, 
there is included a manifest repugnance and incon 
sistency. But this cannot be said of the notion of 
Spirit. That ideas should exist in what doth not per- 
ceive, or be produced by what doth not act, is repug- 
nant. But, it is no repugnancy to say that a perceiv- 
ing thing should be the subject of ideas, or an active 


thing the cause of them. It is granted we have neither 
an immediate evidence nor a demonstrative knowl- 
edge of the existence of other finite spirits ; but it will 
not thence follow that such spirits are on a foot with 
material substances : if to suppose the one be incon- 
sistent, and it be not inconsistent to suppose the 
other ; if the one can be inferred by no argument, and 
there is a probability for the other; if we see signs 
and effects indicating distinct finite agents like our- 
selves, and see no sign or symptom whatever that 
leads to a rational belief of Matter. I say, lastly, 
that I have a notion of Spirit, though I have not, 
strictly speaking, an idea of it. I do not perceive k 
as an idea, or by means of an idea, but know it by re- 

Hyl. Notwithstanding all you have said, to me it 
seems that, according to your own way of thinking^ 
and in consequence of your own principles, it should 
follow that you are only a system of floating ideas, 
without any substance to support them. Words are 
not to be used without a meaning. And, as there is 
no more meaning in spiritual Substance than in material 
Substance, the one is to be exploded as well as the 

Phil. How often must I repeat, that I know or am 
conscious of my own being; and that I myself ^.va. not 
my ideas, but somewhat else, a thinking, active prin- 
ciple that perceives, knows, wills, and operates about 
ideas. I know that I, one and the same self, perceive 
both colours and sounds : that a colour cannot per- 
ceive a sound, nor a sound a colour : that I am there- 
fore one individual principle, distinct from colour and 
sound ; and, for the same reason, from all other sen- 
sible things and inert ideas. But, I am not in like 


manner conscious either of the existence or essence 
of Matter. On the contrary, I know that nothing in- 
consistent can exist, and that the existence of Matter 
implies an inconsistency. Farther, I know what I 
mean when I affirm that there is a spiritual substance 
or support of ideas, that is, that a spirit knows and 
perceives ideas. But, I do not know what is meant 
when it is said that an unperceiving substance hath 
inherent in it and supports either ideas or the arche- 
types of ideas. There is therefore upon the whole no 
parity of case between Spirit and Matter. 

Hyl, I own myself satisfied in this point. But, do 
you in earnest think the real existence of sensible 
things consists in their being actually perceived? If 
so; how comes it that all mankind distinguish be- 
tween them? Ask the first man you meet, and he 
shall tell you, to be perceived is one thing, and to exist 
is another. 

Phil, I am content, Hylas, to appeal to the com- 
mon sense of the world for the truth of my notion. 
Ask the gardener why he thinks yonder cherry-tree 
exists in the garden, and he shall tell you, because he 
sees and feels it ; in a word, because he perceives it 
by his senses. Ask him why he thinks an orange-tree 
not to be there, and he shall tell you, because he does 
not perceive it. What he perceives by sense, that he 
terms a real being, and saith it is or exists; but, that 
which is not perceivable, the same, he saith, hath no 

Hyl. Yes, Philonous, I grant the existence of a sen- 
sible thing consists in being perceivable, but not in 
being actually perceived. 

Phil. And what is perceivable but an idea ? And 


can an idea exist without being actually perceived? 
These are points long since agreed between us. 

HyL But, be your opinion never so true, yet surely 
you will not deny it is shocking, and contrary to the 
common sense of men. Ask the fellow whether yon- 
der tree hath an existence out of his mind : what an- 
swer think you he would make? 

Phil. The same that I should myself, to wit, that 
it doth exist out of his mind. But then to a Christian 
it cannot surely be shocking to say, the real tree, ex- 
isting without his mind, is truly known and compre- 
hended by (that is, exists in) the infinite mind of God. 
Probably he may not at first glance be aware of the 
direct and immediate proof there is of this; inasmuch 
as the very being of a tree, or any other sensible 
thing, implies a mind wherein it is. But the point 
itself he cannot deny. The question between the Ma- 
terialists and me is not, whether things have a real 
existence out of the mind of this or that person, but, 
whether they have an absolute existence, distinct from 
being perceived by God, and exterior to all minds. 
This indeed some heathens and philosophers have 
affirmed, but whoever entertains notions of the Deity 
suitable to the Holy Scriptures will be of another 

Hyl. But, according to your notions, what differ- 
ence is there between real things, and chimeras formed 
by the imagination, or the visions of a dream, since 
they are all equally in the mind ? 

Phil. The ideas formed by the imagination are 
faint and indistinct ; they have, besides, an entire de- 
pendence on the will. But the ideas perceived by 
sense, that is, real things, are more vivid and clear; 
and, being imprinted on the mind by a spirit distinct 


from us, have not the like dependence on our will. 
There is therefore no danger of confounding these 
with the foregoing : and there is as little of confound- 
ing them with the visions of a dream, which are dim, 
irregular, and confused. And, though they should 
happen to be never so lively and natural, yet, by their 
not being connected, and of a piece with the preced- 
ing and subsequent transactions of our lives, they 
might easily be distinguished from realities. In short, 
by whatever method you distinguish things from chi- 
meras on your scheme, the same, it is evident, will 
hold also upon mine. For, it must be, I presume, by 
some perceived difference ; and I am not for depriv- 
ing you of any one thing that you perceive. 

Hyl. But still, Philonous, you hold, there is noth- 
ing in the world but spirits and ideas. And this, you 
must needs acknowledge, sounds very oddly. 

Phil. I own the word idea, not being commonly 
used for thing, sounds something out of the way. My 
reason for using it was, because a necessary relation 
to the mind is understood to be implied by that term ; 
and it is now commonly used by philosophers to de- 
note the immediate objects of the understanding. But, 
however oddly the proposition may sound in words, 
yet it includes nothing so very strange or shocking in 
its sense ; which in effect amounts to no more than 
this, to wit, that there are only things perceiving, and 
things perceived ; or that every unthinking being is 
necessarily, and from the very nature of its existence, 
perceived by some mind ; if not by a finite created 
mind, yet certainly by the infinite mind of God, in 
whom "we live, and move, and have our being." Is 
this as strange as to say, the sensible qualities are not 
on the objects : or that we cannot be sure of the ex- 


istence of things, or know anything of their real na- 
tures, though we both see and feel them, and perceive 
them by all our senses? 

Hyl. And, in consequence of this, must we not 
think there are no such things as physical or corporeal 
causes ; but that a Spirit is the immediate cause of 
all the phenomena in nature? Can there be anything 
more extravagant than this? 

Phil. Yes, it is infinitely more extravagant to say 
a thing which is inert operates on the mind, and which 
is unperceiving, is the cause of our perceptions, with- 
out any regard either to consistency, or the old known 
axiom, Nothing can give to another that which it hath 
not itself.^- Besides, that which to you, I know not 
for what reason, seems so extravagant is no more 
than the Holy Scriptures assert in a hundred places. 
In them God is represented as the sole and imme- 
diate Author of all those effects which some heathens 
and philosophers are wont to ascribe to Nature, Mat- 
ter, Fate, or the like unthinking principle. This is 
so much the constant language of Scripture that it 
were needless to confirm it by citations. 

Hyl. You are not aware, Philonous, that, in making 
God the immediate Author of all the motions in na- 
ture, you make Him the Author of murder, sacrilege, 
adultery, and the like heinous sins. 

Phil. In answer to that, I observe, first, that the 
imputation of guilt is the same, whether a person 
commits an action with or without an instrument. In 
case therefore you suppose God to act by the media- 
tion of an instrument, or occasion, called Matter, you 
as truly make Him the author of sin as I, who think 

1 The words of this sentence from " without " to the end were omitted 
from the last edition. 


Him the immediate agent in all those operations vul- 
garly ascribed to Nature. I farther observe that sin 
or moral turpitude doth not consist in the outward 
physical action or motion, but in the internal devia- 
tion of the will from the laws of reason and religion. 
This is plain, in that the killing an enemy in a battle, 
or putting a criminal legally to death, is not thought 
sinful ; though the outward act be the very same with 
that in the case of murder. Since, therefore, sin doth 
not consist in the physical action, the making God an 
immediate cause of all such actions is not making Him 
the Author of sin. Lastly, I have nowhere said that 
God is the only agent who produces all the motions in 
bodies. It is true I have denied there are any other 
agents besides spirits ; but this is very consistent with 
allowing to thinking rational beings, in the produc- 
tion of motions, the use of limited powers, ultimately 
indeed derived from God, but immediately under the 
direction of their own wills, which is sufficient to en- 
title them to all the guilt of their actions. 

Hyl. But the denying Matter, Philonous, or cor- 
poreal Substance ; there is the point. You can never 
persuade me that this is not repugnant to the uni- 
versal sense of mankind. Were our dispute to be de- 
termined by most voices, I am confident you would 
give up the point, without gathering the votes. 

Phil. I wish both our opinions were fairly stated 
and submitted to the judgment of men who had plain 
common sense, without the prejudices of a learned 
education. Let me be represented as one who trusts 
his senses, who thinks he knows the things he sees 
and feels, and entertains no doubts of their existence ; 
and you fairly set forth with all your doubts, your par- 
adoxes, and your scepticism about you, and I shall 


willingly acquiesce in the determination of any indiffer- 
ent person. That there is no substance wherein ideas 
can exist beside spirit is to me evident. And that the 
objects immediately perceived are ideas, is on all hands 
agreed. And that sensible qualities are objects imme- 
diately perceived no one can deny. It is therefore evi- 
dent there can be no substratum of those qualities but 
spirit ; in which they exist, not by way of mode or prop- 
erty, but as a thing perceived in that which perceives 
it. I deny therefore that there is any unthinking sub- 
stratum of the objects of sense, and in that acceptation 
that there is any material substance. But if by material 
substance is meant only sensible body, that which is 
seen and felt (and the unphilosophical part of the 
world, I dare say, mean no more), then I am more 
certain of matter's existence than you or any other 
philosopher pretend to be. If there be anything which 
makes the generality of mankind averse from the no- 
tions I espouse, it is a misapprehension that I deny 
the reality of sensible things : but, as it is you who 
are guilty of that and not I, it follows that in truth 
their aversion is against your notions and not mine. I 
do therefore assert that I am as certain as of my own 
being, that there are bodies or corporeal substances 
(meaning the things I perceive by my senses) ; and 
that, granting this, the bulk of mankind will take no 
thought about, nor think themselves at all concerned 
in the fate of those unknown natures and philosoph- 
ical quiddities which some men are so fond of. 

Hyl. What say you to this? Since, according to 
you, men judge of the reality of things by their senses, 
how can a man be mistaken in thinking the moon a 
plain lucid surface, about a foot in diameter; or a 


square tower, seen at a distance, round ; or an oar, 
with one end in the water, crooked? 

Phil. He is not mistaken with regard to the ideas 
he actually perceives, but in the inferences he makes 
from his present perceptions. Thus, in the case of 
the oar, what he immediately perceives by sight is 
certainly crooked ; and so far he is in the right. But, 
if he thence conclude that upon taking the oar out of 
the water he shall perceive the same crookedness ; or 
that it would affect his touch as crooked things are 
wont to do : in that he is mistaken. In like manner, 
if he shall conclude from what he perceives in one 
station, that, in case he advances towards the moon 
or tower, he should still be affected with the like ideas, 
he is mistaken. But his mistake lies not in what he 
perceives immediately and at present (it being a mani- 
fest contradiction to suppose he should err in respect 
of that), but in the wrong judgment he makes con- 
cerning the ideas he apprehends to be connected with 
those immediately perceived : or, concerning the ideas 
that, from what he perceives at present, he imagines 
would be perceived in other circumstances. The case 
is the same with regard to the Copernican system. 
We do not here perceive any motion of the earth : 
but it were erroneous thence to conclude, that, in case 
we were placed at as great a distance from that as we 
are now from the other planets, we should not then 
perceive its motion. 

Hyl. I understand you ; and must needs own you 
say things plausible enough : but, give me leave to 
put you in mind of one thing. Pray, Philonous, were 
you not formerly as positive that Matter existed, as 
you are now that it does not? 

Phil. I was. But here lies the difference. Before, 


my positiveness was founded, without examination, 
upon prejudice; but now, after inquiry, upon evi- 

Hyl. After all, it seems our dispute is rather about 
words than things. We agree in the thing, but differ 
in the name. That we are affected with ideas from 
without is evident ; and it is no less evident that there 
must be (I will not say archetypes, but) powers with- 
out the mind, corresponding to those ideas. And, as 
these powers cannot subsist by themselves, there is 
some subject of them necessarily to be admitted, 
which I call Matter, and you call Spirit. This is all 
the difference. 

Phil. Pray, Hylas, is that powerful being, or sub- 
ject of powers, extended? 

Hyl. It hath not extension ; but it hath the power 
to raise in you the idea of extension. 

Phil. It is therefore itself unextended ? 

Hyl. I grant it. 

Phil. Is it not also active? 

Hyl. Without doubt : otherwise, how could we at- 
tribute powers to it? 

Phil. Now let me ask you two questions : First, 
whether it be agreeable to the usage either of philos- 
ophers or others to give the name Matter to an unex- 
tended active being ? And, Secondly, whether it be 
not ridiculously absurd to misapply names contrary 
to the common use of language ? 

Hyl. Well then, let it not be called Matter, since 
you will have it so, but some third nature distinct 
from Matter and Spirit. For what reason is there 
why you should call it Spirit? Does not the notion 
of spirit imply that it is thinking, as well as active 
and unextended? 


Phil. My reason is this : because I have a mind to 
have some notion of meaning in what I say : but I 
have no notion of any action distinct from volition, 
neither can I conceive volition to be anywhere but in 
a spirit; therefore, when I speak of an active being, I 
am obliged to mean a spirit. Beside, what can be 
plainer than that a thing which hath no ideas in itself 
cannot impart them to me; and, if it hath ideas, 
surely it must be a spirit. To make you comprehend 
the point still more clearly if it be possible : I assert 
as well as you that, since we are affected from with- 
out, we must allow powers to be without, in a being 
distinct from ourselves. So far we are agreed. But 
then we differ as to the kind of this powerful being. I 
will have it to be spirit, you Matter, or I know not 
what (I may add too, you know not what) third na- 
ture. Thus, I prove it to be spirit. From the effects 
I see produced I conclude there are actions ; and, be- 
cause actions, volitions ; and, because there are voli- 
tions, there must be a will. Again, the things I per- 
ceive must have an existence, they or their archetypes, 
out of my mind : but, being ideas, neither they nor 
their archetypes can exist otherwise than in an under- 
standing; there is therefore an understanding. But 
will and understanding constitute in the strictest sense 
a mind or spirit. The powerful cause, therefore, of 
my ideas is in strict propriety of speech a spirit. 

Hyl. And now I warrant you think you have made 
the point very clear, little suspecting that what you 
advance leads directly to a contradiction. Is it not 
an absurdity to imagine any imperfection in God? 

Phil. Without a doubt. 

Hyl. To suffer pain is an imperfection? 

Phil. It is. 


HyL Are we not sometimes affected with pain and 
uneasiness by some other being? 

Phil. We are. 

HyL And have you not said that being is a spirit, 
and is not that spirit God? 

Phil. I grant it. 

HyL But you have asserted that whatever ideas 
we perceive from without are in the mind which affects 
us. The ideas, therefore, of pain and uneasiness are 
in God , or, in other words, God suffers pain : that is 
to say, there is an imperfection in the Divine nature, 
which, you acknowledge, was absurd. So you are 
caught in a plain contradiction. 

Phil. That God knows or understands all things, 
and that He knows, among other things, what pain 
is, even every sort of painful sensation, and what it is 
for His creatures to suffer pain, I make no question. 
But, that God, though He knows and sometimes 
causes painful sensations in us, can Himself suffer 
pain, I positively deny. We, who are limited and 
dependent spirits, are liable to impressions of sense, 
the effects of an external agent, which, being pro- 
duced against our wills, are sometimes painful and 
uneasy. But God, whom no external being can affect, 
who perceives nothing by sense as we do, whose will 
is absolute and independent, causing all things, and 
liable to be thwarted or resisted by nothing ; it is evi- 
dent, such a Being as this can suffer nothing, nor be 
affected with any painful sensation, or indeed any sen- 
sation at all. We are chained to a body, that is to 
say, our perceptions are connected with corporeal 
motions. By the law of our nature, we are affected 
upon every alteration in the nervous parts of our sen- 
sible body ; which sensible body, rightly considered, 


is nothing but a complexion of such qualities or ideas 
as have no existence distinct from being perceived by 
a mind : so that this connexion of sensations with 
corporeal motions means no more than a correspond- 
ence in the order of nature between two sets of ideas, 
or things immediately perceivable. But God is a pure 
spirit, disengaged from all such sympathy or natural 
ties. No corporeal motions are attended with the 
sensations of pain or pleasure in His mind. To know 
everything knowable is certainly a perfection ; but to 
endure, or surfer, or feel anything by sense, is an im- 
perfection. The former, I say, agrees to God, but 
not the latter. God knows or hath ideas ; but His 
ideas are not conveyed to Him by sense, as ours are. 
Your not distinguishing, where there is so manifest a 
difference, makes you fancy you see an absurdity where 
there is none. 

Hyl. But, all this while you have not considered 
that the quantity of Matter hath been demonstrated 
to be proportioned to the gravity of bodies. And what 
can withstand demonstration? 

Phil. Let me see how. you demonstrate that point. 

Hyl. I lay it down for a principle that the mo- 
ments or quantities of motion in bodies are in a direct 
compounded reason of the velocities and quantities of 
Matter contained in them. Hence, where the veloci- 
ties are equal, it follows the moments are directly as 
the quantity of Matter in each. But it is found by 
experience that all bodies (bating the small inequali- 
ties, arising from the resistance of the air) descend 
with an equal velocity ; the motion therefore of de- 
scending bodies, and consequently their gravity, which 
is the cause or principle of that motion, is proper- 


tional to the quantity of Matter; which was to be 

Phil. You lay it down as a self-evident principle 
that the quantity of motion in any body is propor- 
tional to the velocity and Matter taken together ; and 
this is made use of to prove a proposition from whence 
the existence of Mattrr is inferred. Pray is not this 
arguing in a circle? 

Hyl. In the premise I only mean that the motion 
is proportional to the velocity, jointly with the exten- 
sion and solidity. 

Phil. But, allowing this to be true, yet it will not 
thence follow that gravity is proportional to Matter, 
in your philosophic sense of the word ; except you 
take it for granted that unknown substratum, or what- 
ever else you call it, is proportional to those sensible 
qualities; which to suppose is plainly begging the 
question. That there is magnitude and solidity, or 
resistance, perceived by sense, I readily grant ; as 
likewise, that gravity may be proportional to those 
qualities I will not dispute. But that either these 
qualities as perceived by us, or the powers producing 
them, do exist in a material substratum; this is what 
I deny, and you indeed affirm, but, notwithstanding 
your demonstration, have not yet proved. 

Hyl. I shall insist no longer on that point. Do 
you think, however, you shall persuade me the nat- 
ural philosophers have been dreaming all this while? 
Pray what becomes of all their hypotheses and expli- 
cations of the phenomena, which suppose the exist- 
ence of Matter? 

Phil. What mean you, Hylas, by the phenomena? 

Hyl. I mean the appearances which I perceive by 
my senses. 


Phil. And the appearances perceived by sense, are 
they not ideas? 

Hyl. I have told you so a hundred times. 

Phil. Therefore, to explain the phenomena is to 
shew how we come to be affected with ideas, in that 
manner, and order wherein they are imprinted on our 
senses. Is it not? 

Hyl. It is. 

Phil. Now, if you can prove that any philosopher 
hath explained the production of any one idea in our 
minds by the help of Matter, I shall for ever acquiesce, 
and look on all that hath been said against it as noth- 
ing ; but, if you cannot, it is vain to urge the explica- 
tion of phenomena. That a Being endowed with 
knowledge and will should produce or exhibit ideas 
is easily understood. But, that a Being which is utterly 
destitute of these faculties should be able to produce 
ideas, or in any sort to affect an intelligence, this I 
can never understand. This I say, though we had 
some positive conception of Matter, though we knew 
its qualities, and could comprehend its existence, 
would yet be so far from explaining things, that it is 
itself the most inexplicable thing in the world. And 
yet, for all this, it will not follow that philosophers 
have been doing nothing ; for, by observing and rea- 
soning upon the connexion of ideas, they discover the 
laws and methods of nature, which is a part of knowl- 
edge both useful and entertaining. 

Hyl. After all, can it be supposed God would de- 
ceive all mankind? Do you imagine He would have 
induced the whole world to believe the being of Mat- 
ter, if there was no such thing? 

Phil. That every epidemical opinion arising from 
prejudice, or passion, or thoughtlessness may be im- 


puted to God, as the Author of it, I believe you will 
not affirm. Whatsoever opinion we father on Him, it 
must be either because He has discovered it to us by 
supernatural revelation ; or because it is so evident to 
our natural faculties, which were framed and given 
us by God, that it is impossible we should withhold 
our assent from it. But where is the revelation? or 
where is the evidence that extorts the belief of Mat- 
ter? Nay, how does it appear, that Matter, taken for 
something distinct from what we perceive by our 
senses, is thought to exist by all mankind ; or, indeed, 
by any except a few philosophers, who do not know 
what they would be at? Your question supposes these 
points are clear ; and, when you have cleared them, I 
shall think myself obliged to give you another answer. 
In the meantime let it suffice that I tell you, I do not 
suppose God has deceived mankind at all. 

Hyl. But the novelty, Philonous, the novelty ! 
There lies the danger. New notions should always 
be discountenanced ; they unsettle men's minds, and 
nobody knows where they will end. 

Phil. Why the rejecting a notion that hath no 
foundation, either in sense, or in reason, or in Divine 
authority, should be thought to unsettle the belief of 
such opinions as are grounded on all or any of these, 
I cannot imagine. That innovations in government 
and religion are dangerous, and ought to be discoun- 
tenanced, I freely own. But, is there the like reason 
why they should be discouraged in philosophy? The 
making anything known which was unknown before 
is an innovation in knowledge : and, if all such inno- 
vations had been forbidden, men would have made a 
notable progress in the arts and sciences. But it is 
none of my business to plead for novelties and para- 


doxes. That the qualities we perceive are not on the 
objects : that we must not believe our senses : that 
we know nothing of the real nature of things, and can 
never be assured even of their existence: that real 
colours and sounds are nothing but certain unknown 
figures and motions : that motions are in themselves 
neither swift nor slow : that there are in bodies abso- 
lute extensions, without any particular magnitude or 
figure : that a thing stupid, thoughtless, and inactive, 
operates on a spirit : that the least particle of a body 
contains innumerable extended parts : these are the 
novelties, these are the strange notions which shock 
the genuine uncorrupted judgment of all mankind ; 
and being once admitted, embarrass the mind with 
endless doubts and difficulties. And it is against 
these and the like innovations I endeavour to vindi- 
cate Common Sense. It is true, in doing this, I may 
perhaps be obliged to use some ambages, and ways of 
speech not common. But, if my notions are once 
thoroughly understood, that which is most singular 
in them will, in effect, be found to amount to no more 
than this : that it is absolutely impossible, and a 
plain contradiction, to suppose any unthinking being 
should exist without being perceived by a mind. And, 
if this notion be singular, it is a shame it should be 
so at this time of day, and in a Christian country. 

Hyl. As for the difficulties other opinions may be 
liable to, those are out of the question. It is your 
business to defend your own opinion. Can anything 
be plainer than that you are for changing all things 
into ideas? You, I say, who are not ashamed to charge 
me with scepticism. This is so plain, there is no de- 
nying it. 

Phil. You mistake me. I am not for changing 


things into ideas, but rather ideas into things ; since 
those immediate objects of perception, which, accord- 
ing to you, are only appearances of things, I take to 
be the real things themselves. 

Hyl. Things ! you may pretend what you please ; 
but it is certain you leave us nothing but the empty 
forms of things, the outside only which strikes the 

Phil. What you call the empty forms and outside 
of things seem to me the very things themselves. Nor 
are they empty or incomplete, otherwise than upon 
your supposition that Matter is an essential part of all 
corporeal things. We both, therefore, agree in this, 
that we perceive only sensible forms: but herein we 
differ, you will have them to be empty appearances, 
I real beings. In short, you do not trust your senses, 
I do. 

Hyl. You say you believe your senses ; and seem 
to applaud yourself that in this you agree with the 
vulgar. According to you, therefore, the true nature 
of a thing is discovered by the senses. If so, whence 
comes that disagreement? Why, is not the same 
figure, and other sensible qualities, perceived all man- 
ner of ways? And why should we use a microscope 
the better to discover the true nature of a body, if it 
were discoverable to the naked eye? 

Phil. Strictly speaking, Hylas, we do not see the 
same object that we feel ; neither is the same object 
perceived by the microscope which was by the naked 
eye. But, in case every variation was thought suffi- 
cient to constitute a new kind or individual, the end- 
less number or confusion of names would render lan- 
guage impracticable. Therefore, to avoid this as well 
as other inconveniences which are obvious upon a 


little thought, men combine together several ideas, 
apprehended by divers senses, or by the same sense 
at different times, or in different circumstances, but 
observed, however, to have some connexion in na- 
ture, either with respect to coexistence or succession ; 
all which they refer to one name, and consider as one 
thing. Hence, it follows that when I examine by my 
other senses a thing I have seen, it is not in order to 
understand better the same object which I had per- 
ceived by sight, the object of one sense not being per- 
ceived by the other senses. And, when I look through 
a microscope, it is not that I may perceive more 
clearly what I perceived already with my bare eyes ; 
the object perceived by the glass being quite different 
from the former. But, in both cases, my aim is only 
to know what ideas are connected together ; and the 
more a man knows of the connexion of ideas, the more 
he is said to know of the nature of things. What, 
therefore, if our ideas are variable ; what if our senses 
are not in all circumstances affected with the same 
appearances? It will not thence follow they are not 
to be trusted, or that they are inconsistent either with 
themselves or anything else ; except it be with your 
preconceived notion of (I know not what) one single, 
unchanged, unperceivable, real nature, marked by 
each name : which prejudice seems to have taken its 
rise from not rightly understanding the common lan- 
guage of men, speaking of several distinct ideas as 
united into one thing by the mind. And, indeed, there 
is cause to suspect several erroneous conceits of the 
philosophers are owing to the same original : while 
they began to build their schemes not so much on no- 
tions as words, which were framed by the vulgar, 


merely for conveniency and dispatch in the common 
actions of life, without any regard to speculation. 

Hyl. Methinks I apprehend your meaning. 

Phil. It is your opinion the ideas we perceive by 
our senses are not real things, but images or copies 
of them. Our knowledge, therefore, is no farther real 
than as our ideas are the true representations of those 
originals. But, as these supposed originals are in 
themselves unknown, it is impossible to know how 
far our ideas resemble them ; or whether they resemble 
them at all. We cannot, therefore, be sure we have 
any real knowledge. Farther, as our ideas are per- 
petually varied, without any change in the supposed 
real things, it necessarily follows they cannot all be 
true copies of them : or, if some are and others are 
not, it is impossible to distinguish the former from 
the latter. And this plunges us yet deeper in uncer- 
tainty. Again, when we consider the point, we can- 
not conceive how any idea, or anything like an idea, 
should have an absolute existence out of a mind : nor 
consequently, according to you, how there should be 
any real thing in nature. The result of all which is 
that we are thrown into the most hopeless and aban- 
doned Scepticism. Now, give me leave to ask you, 
First, Whether your referring ideas to certain abso- 
lutely existing unperceived substances, as their orig- 
inals, be not the source of all this Scepticism? Sec- 
ondly, whether you are informed, either by sense or 
reason, of the existence of those unknown originals? 
And, in case you are not, whether it be not absurd to 
suppose them? Thirdly, Whether, upon inquiry, you 
find there is anything distinctly conceived or meant 
by the absolute or external existence of unperceiving sub- 
stances? Lastly, Whether, the premises considered, 


it be not the wisest way to follow nature, trust your 
senses, and, laying aside all anxious thought about 
unknown natures or substances, admit with the vul- 
gar those for real things which are perceived by the 

Hyl. For the present, I have no inclination to the 
answering part. I would much rather see how you 
can get over what follows. Pray are not the objects 
perceived by the senses of one, likewise perceivable 
to others present ? If there were a hundred more here, 
they would all see the garden, the trees, and flowers, 
as I see them. But they are not in the same manner 
affected with the ideas I frame in my imagination. 
Does not this make a difference between the former 
sort of objects and the latter ? 

Phil. I grant it does. Nor have I ever denied a 
difference between the objects of sense and those of 
imagination. But what would you infer from thence? 
You cannot say that sensible objects exist unper- 
ceived, because they are perceived by many. 

Hyl. I own I can make nothing of that objection : 
but it hath led me into another. Is it not your opin- 
ion that by our senses we perceive only the ideas ex- 
isting in our minds? 

Phil. It is. 

Hyl. But the same idea which is in my mind can- 
not be in yours, or in any other mind. Doth it not 
therefore follow, from your principles, that no two can 
see the same thing? And is not this highly absurd ? 

Phil. If the term same be taken in the vulgar ac- 
ceptation, it is certain (and not at all repugnant to 
the principles I maintain) that different persons may 
perceive the same thing ; or the same thing or idea 
exist in different minds. Words are of arbitrary im- 


position ; and, since men are used to apply the word 
same where no distinction or variety is perceived, and 
I do not pretend to alter their perceptions, it follows 
that, as men have said before, several saw the same 
thing, so they may, upon like occasions, still continue 
to use the same phrase, without any deviation either 
from propriety of language, or the truth of things. 
But, if the term same be used in the acceptation of 
philosophers, who pretend to an abstracted notion of 
identity, then, according to their sundry definitions of 
this notion (for it is not yet agreed wherein that phil- 
osophic identity consists), it may or may not be pos- 
sible for divers persons to perceive the same thing. 
But whether philosophers shall think fit to call a thing 
the same or no, is, I conceive, of small importance. 
Let us suppose several men together, all endued with 
the same faculties, and consequently affected in like 
sort by their senses, and who had yet never known 
the use of language; they would without question, 
agree in their perceptions. Though perhaps, when 
they came to the use of speech, some regarding the uni- 
formness of what was perceived, might call it the same 
thing : others, especially regarding the diversity of per- 
sons who perceived, might choose the denomination 
of different things. But who sees not that all the dis- 
pute is about a word? to wit, whether what is per- 
ceived by different persons may yet have the term 
same applied to it? Or, suppose a house, whose walls 
or outward shell remaining unaltered, the chambers 
are all pulled down, and new ones built in their place ; 
and that you should call this the same, and I should 
say it was not the same house : would we not, for all 
this, perfectly agree in our thoughts of the house, con- 
sidered in itself? And would not all the difference 


consist in a sound? If you should say, We differ in our 
notions ; for that you superadded to your idea of the 
house the simple abstracted idea of identity, whereas 
I did not; I would tell you, I know not what you 
mean by the abstracted idea of identity; and should de- 
sire you to look into your own thoughts, and be sure 

you understood yourself. Why so silent, Hylas? 

Are you not yet satisfied men may dispute about iden- 
tity and diversity, without any real difference in their 
thoughts and opinions, abstracted from names? Take 
this farther reflexion with you that whether Matter 
be allowed to exist or no, the case is exactly the same 
as to the point in hand. For, the Materialists them- 
selves acknowledge what we immediately perceive by 
our senses to be our own ideas. Your difficulty, there- 
fore, that no two see the same thing, makes equally 
against the Materialists and me. 

Hyl. But they suppose an external archetype, to 
which referring their several ideas they may truly be 
said to perceive the same thing. 

Phil. And (not to mention your having discarded 
those archetypes) so may you suppose an external 
archetype on my principles ; external, I mean, to your 
own mind ; though indeed it must be supposed to 
exist in that mind which comprehends all things ; but 
then, this serves all the ends of identity, as well as if 
it existed out of a mind. And I am sure you yourself 
will not say it is less intelligible. 

Hyl. You have indeed clearly satisfied me, either 
that there is no difficulty at bottom in this point ; or, 
if there be, that it makes equally against both opin- 

Phil. But that which makes equally against two 
contradictory opinions can be a proof against neither. 


Hyl. I acknowledge it. But, after all, Philonous, 
when I consider the substance of what you advance 
against Scepticism, it amounts to no more than this : 
We are sure that we really see, hear, feel ; in a word, 
that we are affected with sensible impressions. 

Phil. And how are we concerned any farther? I 
see this cherry, I feel it, I taste it : and I am sure 
nothing cannot be seen, or felt, or tasted : it is there- 
fore real. Take away the sensations of softness, mois- 
ture, redness, tartness, and you take away the cherry. 
Since it is not a being distinct from sensations ; a 
cherry, I say, is nothing but a congeries of sensible 
impressions, or ideas perceived by various senses: 
which ideas are united into one thing (or have one 
name given them) by the mind ; because they are ob- 
served to attend each other. Thus, when the palate 
is affected with such a particular taste, the sight is 
affected with a red colour, the touch with roundness, 
softness, &c. Hence, when I see, and feel, and taste, 
in sundry certain manners, I am sure the cherry ex- 
ists, or is real ; its reality being in my opinion nothing 
abstracted from those sensations. But if, by the word 
cherry, you mean an unknown nature, distinct from all 
those sensible qualities, and by its existence something 
distinct from its being perceived ; then, indeed, I own, 
neither you or I, nor any one else, can be sure it ex- 

Hyl. But, what would you say, Philonous, if I 
should bring the very same reasons against the exist- 
ence of sensible things in a mind, which j'ou have 
offered against their existing in a material substratum? 

Phil. When I see your reasons, you shall hear 
what I have to say to them. 

Hyl. Is the mind extended or unextended? 


Phil. Unextended, without doubt. 

HyL Do you say the things you perceive are in 
your mind? 

Phil. They are. 

HyL Again, have I not heard you speak of sen- 
sible impressions? 

Phil. I believe you may. 

Hyl. Explain to me now, O Philonous ! how is it 
possible there should be room for all those trees and 
houses to exist in your mind. Can extended things 
be contained in that which is unextended? Or, are 
we to imagine impressions made on a thing void of 
all solidity? You cannot say objects are in your mind, 
as books in your study : or that things are imprinted 
on it, as the figure of a seal upon wax. In what sense, 
therefore, are we to understand those expressions? 
Explain me this if you can : and I shall then be able 
to answer all those queries you formerly put to me 
about my substratum. 

Phil. Look you, Hylas, when I speak of objects as 
existing in the mind, or imprinted on the senses, I 
would not be understood in the gross literal sense 
as when bodies are said to exist in a place, or a seal 
to make an impression upon wax. My meaning is 
only that the mind comprehends or perceives them ; 
and that it is affected from without, or by some being 
distinct from itself. This is my explication of your 
difficulty ; and how it can serve to make your tenet 
of an unperceiving material substratum intelligible, I 
would fain know. 

Hyl. Nay, if that be all, I confess I do not see 
what use can be made of it. But are you not guilty 
of some abuse of language in this ? 

Phil. None at all. It is no more than common cus- 


torn, which you know is the rule of language, hath 
authorised : nothing being more usual, than for phi- 
losophers to speak of the immediate objects of the 
understanding as things existing in the mind. Nor is 
there anything in this but what is conformable to the 
general analogy of language ; most part of the mental 
operations being signified by words borrowed from 
sensible things ; as is plain in the terms comprehend, 
reflect, discourse, &c., which, being applied to the 
mind, must not be taken in their gross original sense. 

Hyl. You have, I own, satisfied me in this point. 
But there still remains one great difficulty, which I 
know not how you will get over. And, indeed, it is 
of such importance that if you could solve all others, 
without being able to find a solution for this, you 
must never expect to make me a proselyte to your 

Phil. Let me know this mighty difficulty. 

Hyl. The Scripture account of the creation is what 
appears to me utterly irreconcilable with your notions. 
Moses tells us of a creation: a creation of what? of 
ideas? No certainly, but of things, of real things, 
solid corporeal substances. Bring your principles to 
agree with this, and I shall perhaps agree with you. 

Phil. Moses mentions the sun, moon, and stars, 
earth and sea, plants and animals. That all these do 
really exist, and were in the beginning created by 
God, I make no question. If by ideas you mean fic- 
tions and fancies of the mind, then these are no ideas. 
If by ideas you mean immediate objects of the under- 
standing, or sensible things which cannot exist unper- 
ceived, or out of a mind, then these things are ideas. 
But whether you do or do not call them ideas, it mat- 
ters little. The difference is only about a name. And, 


whether that name be retained or rejected, the sense, 
the truth, and reality of things continues the same. 
In common talk, the objects of our senses are not 
termed ideas but things. Call them so still provided 
you do not attribute to them any absolute external 
existence and I shall never quarrel with you for a 
word. The creation, therefore, I allow to have been 
a creation of things, of real things. Neither is this in 
the least inconsistent with my principles, as is evident 
from what I have now said ; and would have been 
evident to you without this, if you had not forgotten 
what had been so often said before. But as for solid 
corporeal substances, I desire you to shew where 
Moses makes any mention of them ; and, if they should 
be mentioned by him, or any other inspired writer, it 
would still be incumbent on you to shew those words 
were not taken in the vulgar acceptation, for things 
falling under our senses, but in the philosophic ac- 
ceptation, for Matter, or an unknown quiddity, with 
an absolute existence. When you have proved these 
points, then (and not till then) may you bring the 
authority of Moses into our dispute. 

Hyl. It is in vain to dispute about a point so clear. 
I am content to refer it to your own conscience. Are 
you not satisfied there is some peculiar repugnancy 
between the Mosaic account of the creation and your 

Phil. If all possible sense which can be put on the 
first chapter of Genesis may be conceived as consist- 
ently with my principles as any other, then it has no 
peculiar repugnancy with them. But there is no sense 
you may not as well conceive, believing as I do. Since, 
besides spirits, all you conceive are ideas ; and the 


existence of these I do not deny. Neither do you 
pretend they exist without the mind. 

Hyl. Pray let me see any sense you can under- 
stand it in. 

Phil. Why, I imagine that if I had been present at 
the creation, I should have seen things produced into 
being that is become perceptible in the order pre- 
scribed by the sacred historian. I ever before be- 
lieved the Mosaic account of the creation, and now 
find no alteration in my manner of believing it. When 
things are said to begin or end their existence, we do 
not mean this with regard to God, but His creatures. 
All objects are eternally known by God, or, which is 
the same thing, have an eternal existence in His 
mind : but when things, before imperceptible to crea- 
tures, are, by a decree of God, perceptible to them, 
then are they said to begin a relative existence, with 
respect to created minds. Upon reading therefore 
the Mosaic account of the creation, I understand that 
the several parts of the world became gradually per- 
ceivable to finite spirits, endowed with proper facul- 
ties ; so that, whoever such were present, they were 
in truth perceived by them. This is the literal ob- 
vious sense suggested to me by the words of the Holy 
Scripture : in which is included no mention or no 
thought, either of substratum, instrument, occasion, 
or absolute existence. And, upon inquiry, I doubt 
not it will be found that most plain honest men, who 
believe the creation, never think of those things any 
more than I. What metaphysical sense you may un- 
derstand it in, you only can tell. 

Hyl. But, Philonous, you do not seem to be aware 
that you allow created things, in the beginning, only 
a relative, and consequently hypothetical being : that 


is to say, upon supposition there were men to perceive 
them, without which they have no actuality of absolute 
existence wherein creation might terminate. Is it not, 
therefore, according to you, plainly impossible the 
creation of any inanimate creatures should precede 
that of man? And is not this directly contrary to the 
Mosaic account? 

Phil. In answer to that, I say, first, created beings 
might begin to exist in the mind of other created in- 
telligences beside men. You will not therefore be 
able to prove any contradiction between Moses and 
my notions, unless you first shew there was no other 
order of finite created spirits in being before man. I 
say farther, in case we conceive the creation, as we 
should at this time a parcel of plants or vegetables of 
all sorts produced; by an invisible power, in a desert 
where nobody was present that this way of explain- 
ing or conceiving it is consistent with my principles, 
since they deprive you of nothing, either sensible or 
imaginable; that it exactly suits with the common, 
natural, and undebauched notions of mankind ; that 
it manifests the dependence of all things on God ; and 
consequently hath all the good effect or influence, 
which it is possible that important article of our faith 
should have in making men humble, thankful, and re- 
signed to their Creator. I say, moreover, that, in 
this naked conception of things, divested of words, 
there will not be found any notion of what you call 
the actuality of absolute existence. You may indeed 
raise a dust with those terms, and so lengthen our 
dispute to no purpose. But I entreat you calmly to 
look into your own thoughts, and then tell me if they 
are not a useless and unintelligible jargon. 

Hyl. I own I have no very clear notion annexed to 


them. But what say you to this? Do you not make 
the existence of sensible things consist in their being 
in a mind? And were not all things eternally in the 
mind of God? Did they not therefore exist from all 
eternity, according to you? And how could that which 
was eternal be created in time? Can anything be 
clearer or better connected than this? 

Phil. And are not you too of opinion, that God 
knew all things from eternity? 

Hyl. I am. 

Phil. Consequently they always had a being in the 
Divine intellect. 

Hyl. This I acknowledge. 

Phil. By your own confession, therefore, nothing 
is new, or begins to be, in respect of the mind of God. 
So we are agreed in that point. 

Hyl. What shall we make then of the creation? 

Phil. May we not understand it to have been en- 
tirely in respect of finite spirits; so that things, with 
regard to us, may properly be said to begin their ex- 
istence, or be created, when God decreed they should 
become perceptible to intelligent creatures, in that 
order and manner which He then established, and we 
now call the laws of nature? You may call this a re- 
lative, or hypothetical existence if you please. But so 
long as it supplies us with the most natural, obvious, 
and literal sense of the Mosaic history of the creation ; 
so long as it answers all the religious ends of that 
great article; in a word, so long as you can assign no 
other sense or meaning in its stead ; why should we 
reject this? Is it to comply with a ridiculous sceptical 
humour of making everything nonsense and unintelli- 
gible? I am sure you cannot say it is for the glory 
of God. For, allowing it to be a thing possible and 


conceivable that the corporeal world should have an 
absolute existence extrinsical to the mind of God, as 
well as to the minds of all created spirits ; yet how 
could this set forth e'ther the immensity or omnis- 
cience of the Deity, or the necessary and immediate 
dependence of all things on Him? Nay, would it not 
rather seem to derogate from those attributes ? 

Hyl. Well, but as to this decree of God's, for mak- 
ing things perceptible, what say you, Philonous, is it 
not plain, God did either execute that decree from all 
eternity, or at some certain time began to will what 
He had not actually willed before, but only designed 
to will? If the former, then there could be no crea- 
tion or beginning of existence in finite things. If the 
latter, then we must acknowledge something new to 
befall the Deity ; which implies a sort of change : and 
all change argues imperfection. 

Phil. Pray consider what you are doing. Is it not 
evident this objection concludes equally against a 
creation in any sense ; nay, against every other act of 
the Deity, discoverable by the light of nature? None 
of which can we conceive, otherwise than as performed 
in time, and having a beginning. God is a Being of 
transcendent and unlimited perfections : His Nature, 
therefore, is incomprehensible to finite spirits. It is 
not, therefore, to be expected, that any man, whether 
Materialist or Immaterialist y should have exactly just 
notions of the Deity, His attributes, and ways of ope- 
ration. If then you would infer anything against me, 
your difficulty must not be drawn from the inadequate- 
ness of our conceptions of the Divine nature, which 
is unavoidable on any scheme, but from the denial of 
Matter, of which there is not one word, directly or in- 
directly, in what you have now objected. 


Hyl. I must acknowledge the difficulties you are 
concerned to clear are such only as arise from the non- 
existence of Matter, and are peculiar to that notion. 
So far you are in the right. But I cannot by any 
means bring myself to think there is no such peculiar 
repugnancy between the creation and your opinion : 
though indeed where to fix it, I do not distinctly know. 

Phil. What would you have? Do I not acknowl- 
edge a twofold state of things, the one ectypal or nat- 
ural, the other archetypal and eternal? The former 
was created in time ; the latter existed from everlast- 
ing in the mind of God. Is not this agreeable to the 
common notions of divines? Or is any more than 
this necessary in order to conceive the creation? But 
you suspect some peculiar repugnancy, though you 
know not where it lies. To take away all possibility 
of scruple in the case, do but consider this one point. 
Either you are not able to conceive the creation on 
any hypothesis whatsoever ; and, if so, there is no 
ground for dislike or complaint against any particular 
opinion on that score : or you are able to conceive it; 
and, if so, why not on my principles, since thereby 
nothing conceivable is taken away? You have all 
along been allowed the full scope of sense, imagina- 
tion, and reason. Whatever, therefore, you could be- 
fore apprehend, either immediately or mediately by 
your senses, or by ratiocination from your senses; 
whatever you could perceive, imagine, or understand, 
remains still with you. If, therefore, the notion you 
have of the creation by other principles be intelligible, 
you have it still upon mine ; if it be not intelligible, I 
conceive it to be no notion at all ; and so there is no 
loss of it. And indeed it seems to me very plain that 
the supposition of Matter, that is a thing perfectly 


unknown and inconceivable, cannot serve to make us 
conceive anything. And, I hope it need not be proved 
to you that if the existence of Matter doth not make 
the creation conceivable, the creation's being without 
it inconceivable can be no objection against its non- 

Hyl. I confess, Philonous, you have almost satisfied 
me in this point of the creation. 

Phil. I would fain know why you are not quite 
satisfied. You tell me indeed of a repugnancy be- 
tween the Mosaic history and Immaterialism : but you 
know not where it lies. Is this reasonable, Hylas? 
Can you expect I should solve a difficulty without 
knowing what it is? But, to pass by all that, would 
not a man think you were assured there is no repug- 
nancy between the received notions of Materialists 
and the inspired writings? 

HyL And so I am. 

Phil. Ought the historical part of Scripture to be 
understood in a plain obvious sense, or in a sense 
which is metaphysical and out of the way ? 

Hyl. In the plain sense, doubtless. 

Phil. When Moses speaks of herbs, earth, water, 
&c., as having been created by God ; think you not 
the sensible things commonly signified by those words 
are suggested to every unphilosophical reader? 

Hyl. I cannot help thinking so. 

Phil. And are not all ideas, or things perceived by 
sense, to be denied a real existence by the doctrine of 
the Materialist? 

Hyl. This I have already acknowledged. 

Phil. The creation, therefore, according to them, 
was not the creation of things sensible, which have 
only a relative being, but of certain unknown natures, 


which have an absolute being, wherein creation might 

Hyl. True. 

Phil. Is it not therefore evident the assertors of 
Matter destroy the plain obvious sense of Moses, with 
which their notions are utterly inconsistent ; and in- 
stead of it obtrude on us I know not what, something 
equally unintelligible to themselves and me? 

Hyl. I cannot contradict you. 

Phil. Moses tells us of a creation. A creation of 
what? of unknown quiddities, of occasions, or sub- 
stratum? No, certainly; but of things obvious to the 
senses. You must first reconcile this with your no- 
tions, if you expect I should be reconciled to them. 

Hyl. I see you can assault me with my own weap- 

Phil. Then as to absolute existence; was there ever 
known a more jejune notion than that? Something it 
is so abstracted and unintelligible that you have 
frankly owned you could not conceive it, much less 
explain anything by it. But, allowing Matter to ex- 
ist, and the notion of absolute existence to be as clear 
as light, yet, was this ever known to make the crea- 
tion more credible? Nay, hath it not furnished the 
atheists and infidels of all ages with the most plausible 
arguments against a creation? That a corporeal sub- 
stance, which hath an absolute existence without the 
minds of spirits, should be produced out of nothing, 
by the mere will of a Spirit, hath been looked upon 
as a thing so contrary to all reason, so impossible and 
absurd, that not only the most celebrated among the 
ancients, but even divers modern and Christian phi- 
losophers have thought Matter co-eternal with the 
Deity. Lay these things together, and then judge 


you whether Materialism disposes men to believe the 
creation of things. 

Hyl. I own, Philonous, I think it does not. This 
of the creation is the last objection I can think of; 
and I must needs own it hath been sufficiently an- 
swered as well as the rest. Nothing now remains to 
be overcome but a sort of unaccountable backward- 
ness that I find in myself towards your notions. 

Phil. When a man is swayed, he knows not why, 
to one side of the question, can this, think you, be 
anything else but the effect of prejudice, which never 
fails to attend old and rooted notions? And indeed 
in this respect I cannot deny the belief of Matter to 
have very much the advantage over the contrary opin- 
ion, with men of a learned education. 

Hyl. I confess it seems to be as you say. 

Phil. As a balance, therefore, to this weight of 
prejudice, let us throw into the scale the great advan- 
tages that arise from the belief of Immaterialism, both 
in regard to religion and human learning. The being 
of a God, and incorruptibility of the soul, those great 
articles of religion, are they not proved with the clear- 
est and most immediate evidence? When I say the 
being of a God, I do not mean an obscure general 
cause of things, whereof we have no conception, but 
God, in the strict and proper sense of the word; a 
Being whose spirituality, omnipresence, providence, 
omniscience, infinite power and goodness, are as con- 
spicuous as the existence of sensible things, of which 
(notwithstanding the fallacious pretences and affected 
scruples of Sceptics) there is no more reason to doubt 
than of our own being. Then, with relation to human 
sciences : in Natural Philosophy, what intricacies, 
what obscurities, what contradictions hath the belief 


of Matter led men into ! To say nothing of the num- 
berless disputes about its extent, continuity, homo- 
geneity, gravity, divisibility, &c. do they not pretend 
to explain all things by bodies operating on bodies, 
according to the laws of motion? and yet, are they 
able to comprehend how one body should move an- 
other? Nay, admitting there was no difficulty in rec- 
onciling the notion of an inert being with a cause, or 
in conceiving how an accident might pass from one 
body to another ; yet, by all their strained thoughts 
and extravagant suppositions, have they been able to 
reach the mechanical production of any one animal or 
vegetable body? Can they account, by the laws of 
motion, for sounds, tastes, smells, or colours, or for 
the regular course of things? Have they accounted, 
by physical principles, for the aptitude and contri- 
vance even of the most inconsiderable parts of the 
universe? But laying aside Matter and corporeal 
causes, and admitting only the efficiency of an All- 
perfect Mind, are not all the effects of nature easy 
and intelligible? If the phenomena are nothing else 
but ideas; God is a spirit, but Matter an unintelligent, 
unperceiving being. If they demonstrate an unlim- 
ited power in their cause ; God is active and omnipo- 
tent, but Matter an inert mass. If the order, regu- 
larity, and usefulness of them can never be sufficiently 
admired; God is infinitely wise and provident, but 
Matter destitute of all contrivance and design. These 
surely are great advantages in physics. Not to mention 
that the apprehension of a distant Deity naturally dis- 
poses men to a negligence of their moral actions, 
which they would be more cautious of, in case they 
thought him immediately present, and acting on their 
minds, without the interposition of Matter, or un- 


thinking second causes. Then in metaphysics: what 
difficulties concerning entity in abstract, substantial 
forms, hylarchic principles, plastic natures, substance 
and accident, principle of individuation, possibility of 
Matter's thinking, origin of ideas, the manner how 
two independent substances so widely different as 
Spirit and Matter, should mutually operate on each 
other? what difficulties, I say, and endless disquisi- 
tions, concerning these and innumerable other the 
like points, do we escape, by supposing only Spirits 
and ideas? Even the mathematics themselves, if we 
take away the absolute existence of extended things, 
become much more clear and easy ; the most shock- 
ing paradoxes and intricate speculations in those sci- 
ences depending on the infinite divisibility of finite 
extension, which depends on that supposition. But 
what need is there to insist on the particular sciences? 
Is not that opposition to all science whatsoever, that 
frenzy of the ancient and modern Sceptics, built on 
the same foundation? Or can you produce so much 
as one argument against the reality of corporeal things 
or in behalf of that avowed utter ignorance of their 
natures, which doth not suppose their reality to con- 
sist in an external absolute existence? Upon this sup- 
position, indeed, the objections from the change of 
colours in a pigeon's neck, or the appearance of the 
broken oar in the water, must be allowed to have 
weight. But these and the like objections vanish, if 
we do not maintain the being of absolute external 
originals, but place the reality of things in ideas, fleet- 
ing indeed, and changeable ; however, not changed 
at random, but according to the fixed order of nature. 
For, herein consists that constancy and truth of things 
which secures all the concerns of life, and distin- 


guishes that which is real from the irregular visions 
of the fancy. 

Hyl. I agree to all you have now said, and must 
own that nothing can incline me to embrace your 
opinion more than the advantages I see it is attended 
with. I am by nature lazy; and this would be a mighty 
abridgment in knowledge. What doubts, what hy- 
potheses, what labyrinths of amusement, what fields 
of disputation, what an ocean of false learning may be 
avoided by that single notion of Immaterialism! 

Phil. After all, is there anything farther remaining 
to be done? You may remember you promised to 
embrace that opinion which upon examination should 
appear most agreeable to Common Sense and remote 
from Scepticism. This, by your own confession, is 
that which denies Matter, or the absolute existence of 
corporeal things. Nor is this all ; the same notion 
has been proved several ways, viewed in different 
lights, pursued in its consequences, and all objections 
against it cleared. Can there be a greater evidence 
of its truth? or is it possible it should have all the 
marks of a true opinion and yet be false? 

Hyl. I own myself entirely satisfied for the present 
in all respects. But, what security can I have that I 
shall still continue the same full assent to your opin- 
ion, and that no unthought-of objection or difficulty 
will occur hereafter? 

Phil. Pray, Hylas, do you in other cases, when a 
point is once evidently proved, withhold your consent 
on account of objections or difficulties it may be liable 
to? Are the difficulties that attend the doctrine of in- 
commensurable quantities, of the angle of contact, of 
the asymptotes to curves, or the like, sufficient to 
make you hold out against mathematical demonstra- 


tion? Or will you disbelieve the Providence of God, 
because there may be some particular things which 
you know not how to reconcile with it? If there are 
difficulties attending fmmaterialism, there are at the 
same time direct and evident proofs of it. But for the 
existence of Matter there is not one proof, and far more 
numerous and insurmountable objections lie against 
it. But where are those mighty difficulties you insist 
on? Alas! you know not where or what they are; 
something which may possibly occur hereafter. If 
this be a sufficient pretence for withholding your full 
assent, you should never yield it to any proposition, 
how free soever from exceptions, how clearly and 
solidly soever demonstrated. 

Hyl. You have satisfied me, Philonous. 

Phil, But, to arm you against all future objections, 
do but consider, that which bears equally hard on two 
contradictory opinions can be proof against neither. 
Whenever, therefore, any difficulty occurs, try if you 
can find a solution for it on the hypothesis of the Ma- 
terialists. Be not deceived by words ; but sound your 
own thoughts. And in case you cannot conceive it 
easier by the help of Materialism, it is plain it can be 
no objection against Immaterialism. Had you pro- 
ceeded all along by this rule, you would probably have 
spared yourself abundance of trouble in objecting ; 
since of all your difficulties I challenge you to shew 
one that is explained by Matter: nay, which is not 
more unintelligible with than without that supposi- 
tion, and consequently makes rather against than for 
it. You should consider, in each particular, whether 
the difficulty arises from the non-existence of Matter. 
If it doth not, you might as well argue from the in- 
finite divisibility of extension against the Divine pre- 


science, as from such a difficulty against Immaterial- 
ism. And yet, upon recollection, I believe you will 
find this to have been often if not always the case. 
You should likewise take heed not to argue on a petitio 
principii. One is apt to say, the unknown substances 
ought to be esteemed real things, rather than the 
ideas in our minds : and who can tell but the unthink- 
ing external substance may concur as a cause or in- 
strument in the productions of our ideas? But, is not 
this proceeding on a supposition that there are such ex- 
ternal substances? And to suppose this, is it not beg- 
ging the question? But, above all things, you should 
beware of imposing on yourself by that vulgar sophism 
which is called ignoratio elenchi. You talked often as 
if you thought I maintained the non-existence of Sen- 
sible Things : whereas in truth no one can be more 
thoroughly assured of their existence than I am : and 
it is you who doubt ; I should have said, positively 
deny it. Everything that is seen, felt, heard, or any 
way perceived by the senses, is, on the principles I 
embrace, a real being, but not on yours. Remember, 
the Matter you contend for is an unknown somewhat 
(if indeed it may be termed somewhaf), which is quite 
stripped of all sensible qualities, and can neither be 
perceived by sense, nor apprehended by the mind. 
Remember, I say, that it is not any object which is 
hard or soft, hot or cold, blue or white, round or 
square, &c. ; for all these things I affirm do exist. 
Though indeed I deny they have an existence distinct 
from being perceived ; or that they exist out of all 
minds whatsoever. Think on these points ; let them 
be attentively considered and still kept in view. Other- 
wise you will not comprehend the state of the ques- 
tion; without which your objections will always be 


wide of the mark, and instead of mine, may possibly 
be directed (as more than once they have been) against 
your own notions. 

Hyl. I must needs own, Philonous, nothing seems 
to have kept me from agreeing with you more than 
this same mistaking the question. In denying Matter, 
at first glimpse I am tempted to imagine you deny 
the things we see and feel : but, upon reflexion, find 
there is no ground for it. What think you, therefore, 
of retaining the name Matter, and applying it to sen- 
sible things? This may be done without any change 
in your sentiments : and, believe me, it would be a 
means of reconciling them to some persons who may 
be more shocked at an innovation in words than in 

Phil. With all my heart : retain the word Matter, 
and apply it to the objects of sense, if you please ; 
provided you do not attribute to them any subsistence 
distinct from their being perceived. I shall never 
quarrel with you for an expression. Matter, or ma- 
terial substance, are terms introduced by philosophers ; 
and, as used by them, imply a sort of independency, 
or a subsistence distinct from being perceived by a 
mind: but are never used by common people; or, if 
ever, it is to signify the immediate objects of sense. 
One would think, therefore, so long as the names of 
all particular things, with the terms sensible, substance, 
body, stuff, and the like, are retained, the word Matter 
should be never missed in common talk. And in phil- 
osophical discourses it seems the best way to leave it 
quite out : since there is not, perhaps, any one thing 
that hath more favoured and strengthened the de- 
praved bent of the mind towards Atheism than the 
use of that general confused term. 


HyL Well but, Philonous, since I am content to 
give up the notion of an unthinking substance exterior 
to the mind, I think you ought not to deny me the 
privilege of using the word Matter as I please, and 
annexing it to a collection of sensible qualities sub- 
sisting only in the mind. I freely own there is no 
other substance, in a strict sense, than Spirit. But I 
have been so long accustomed to the term Matter that 
I know not how to part with it. To say, there is no 
Matter in the World, is still shocking to me. Whereas 
to say There is no Matter, if by that term be meant 
an unthinking substance existing without the mind ; 
but if by Matter is meant some sensible thing, whose 
existence consists in being perceived, then there is 
Matter: this distinction gives it quite another turn ; 
and men will come into your notions with small diffi- 
culty, when they are proposed in that manner. For, 
after all, the controversy about Matter in the strict 
acceptation of it, lies together between you and the 
philosophers : whose principles, I acknowledge, are 
not near so natural, or so agreeable to the common 
sense of mankind, and Holy Scripture, as yours. 
There is nothing we either desire or shun but as it 
makes, or is apprehended to make, some part of our 
happiness or misery. But what hath happiness or 
misery, joy or grief, pleasure or pain, to do with Ab- 
solute Existence ; or with unknown entities, abstracted 
from all relation to us? It is evident, things regard 
us only as they are pleasing or displeasing : and they 
can please or displease only so far forth as they are 
perceived. Farther, therefore, we are not concerned ; 
and thus far you leave things as you found them. Yet 
still there is something new in this doctrine. It is 
plain, I do not now think with the philosophers, nor 


yet altogether with the vulgar. I would know how 
the case stands in that respect ; precisely, what you 
have added to, or altered in my former notions. 

Phil. I do not pretend to be a setter-up of new 
notions. My endeavours tend only to unite and place 
in a clearer light that truth which was before shared 
between the vulgar and the philosophers : the former 
being of opinion, that those things they immediately per- 
ceive are the real things; and the latter, that the things 
immediately perceived are ideas which exist only in the 
mind. Which two notions put together, do, in effect, 
constitute the substance of what I advance. 

Hyl. I have been a long time distrusting my 
senses; methought I saw things by a dim light and 
through false glasses. Now the glasses are removed 
and a new light breaks in upon my understanding. I 
am clearly convinced that I see things in their native 
forms, and am no longer in pain about their unknown 
natures or absolute existence. This is the state I find 
myself in at present ; though, indeed, the course that 
brought me to it I do not yet thoroughly comprehend. 
You set out upon the same principles that Academics, 
Cartesians, and the like sects usually do, and for a 
long time it looked as if you were advancing their 
Philosophical Scepticism ; but, in the end, your con- 
clusions are directly opposite to theirs. 

Phil. You see, Hylas, the water of yonder foun- 
tain, how it is forced upwards, in a round column, to 
a certain height ; at which it breaks, and falls back 
into the basin from whence it rose : its ascent as well 
as descent proceeding from the same uniform law or 
principle of gravitation. Just so, the same principles 
which, at first view, lead to Scepticism, pursued to a 
certain point, bring men back to Common Sense. 



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